Nicholle’s journey with Specialist Supported Living

By Luisa Bustos, 26 March 2019 , Comments

For our customer Nicholle, who has an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, our Liverpool Specialist Supported Living (SSL) Respite service has provided a home away from home for the past six months.

Liverpool Respite is one of Northcott’s SSL housing services for customers with complex medical needs. The service also supports people, like Nicholle, who may need short-term accommodation after a stay in hospital or when their circumstances change drastically.

In March last year, Nicholle experienced some falls and was admitted to hospital, where she remained for three months. During the hospital stay, Nicholle’s mobility declined dramatically leading to significant changes in her support needs. Unfortunately, these changes meant that when she was discharged from hospital Nicholle was unable to safely return to Northcott’s St Johns Park house, her home for 15 years.

“Nicholle’s support needs changed and she required higher levels of staffing support and additional equipment to support her with all transfers throughout the day,” explains Grant Nairn, Northcott’s Coordinator Accommodation & Respite and one of the staff currently supporting Nicholle.

“The St Johns Park house is an 80’s style home with very small living areas, tiny bedrooms and medium-sized bathrooms. The size of the bedroom and bathroom would compromise the safety of Nicholle and the staff supporting her with manual handling tasks,” Grant explains.

Nicholle is no longer able to walk unassisted and requires support for daily tasks including showering, toileting and getting into and out of bed – activities she was previously able to do with a little support.

Problem solving as a team

When it became clear that Nicholle wouldn’t initially be able to return to her St John’s Park home, a collaborative team from Northcott rallied together to find a solution and support Nicholle’s recovery and rehabilitation.

The team, which included accommodation managers, support staff, support coordinators and therapists, looked for suitable short-term accommodation where Nicholle could continue her rehabilitation program, while also receiving the support and staffing levels she needed to work towards moving back to her home. Our Liverpool SSL Respite was identified as an option.

In preparation for discharge, support workers from the St John’s Park home, as well as Nicholle’s Northcott occupational therapist and physiotherapist, worked together to prepare Nicholle and the staff and nurses at the Liverpool service for the transition. Northcott Occupational Therapist Madeleine Spinelli assessed the St John’s Park house, Liverpool SSL Respite and Nicholle’s support needs.

“Environmentally, the Liverpool service had the large open rooms, higher staffing levels and a range of manual handling equipment (including ceiling hoist and shower trolley) needed to safely support Nicholle and the staff assisting her,” explains Grant.

Madeline and Northcott management also liaised closely with Hume Housing, the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) provider for the St John’s Park home, to assess potential modifications and renovations that would make the property accessible for Nicholle – if she regained some of her mobility.

Additionally, Nicholle’s Northcott Support Coordinator, Meegan Harper submitted an NDIS plan review so Nicholle’s current plan could be extended to cover her time at the Liverpool SSL Respite service. Meegan also applied for extra funding for Nicholle to cover occupational therapy assessments and support her transition to new accommodation in the future.

A positive outcome

Six months on, despite the significant changes to her life, Nicholle has coped extremely well with living at the Liverpool SSL Respite service.

“This has been a difficult process for Nicholle, having to be discharged into a new environment with unfamiliar staff. However, she has been supported brilliantly by the St Johns Park team leader Sue Delgado, and other staff at St Johns Park who have supported Nicholle for many years,” says Grant.

The Liverpool Respite staff have also done a fantastic job. Nicholle continues to receive ongoing occupational therapy and physiotherapy services to support her rehabilitation program.

“Nicholle is improving, although very slowly. Initially she required three staff for all transfers. Now she requires two workers, although she does have good days and bad days. She is also now sitting up in bed and moving herself to the end of the bed so the staff can support her with transfers.

“The staff are doing a fantastic job supporting Nicholle. I think she is enjoying it very much. They assist Nicholle to do her makeup, her hair, fingernails and take her shopping. They pamper her – which is really good,” Grant says.

Next steps

Plans are now underway to find a suitable, accessible long-term accommodation option for Nicholle as her previous home at St Johns Park may no longer be suitable (without significant building works and the purchase of a range of additional equipment).

The Northcott team is working with Nicholle and other stakeholders to identify potential vacancies which will meet her needs. Grant says a behaviour support practitioner will also soon start to support Nicholle through the transition process to her new home and throughout her continued recovery.

Related content

Northcott offers a range of housing options for people with disability – see how we can support you.

Are you looking for an accessible home? Our innovation arm, Northcott Innovation runs Nest – a website matching people with disability with SDA housing that meets their funding and support needs as well as personal preferences.


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