During the bushfire season, Bryan and the home modifications team were working on the south coast of NSW. Bryan, Senior Home Modifications Officer at icare, personally attended to people in regional NSW whose homes had been damaged by the fires and arranged repairs to get them back home as soon as possible.
During this time, Bryan was contacted by a distressed Lifetime Care participant from the South Coast region of Bodalla NSW. The bushfires had gone over his house, but his home was able to be saved due to a recently-installed sprinkler system. The impact of the fire was losing the generator, power and septic tank. Although the home was saved, power would not be back on in the house for up to four months. The loss of power meant he was not able to stay in his home.
The participant, in his 50s, contacted Bryan asking for help with a generator to provide power to his home. This participant has a spinal cord injury, uses a wheelchair, has limited bodily movements but is able to use his arms. He lives with his wife, who is his full-time carer and she also manages her own health problems.
Bryan was able to locate a generator in the area and when going to pick it up, the generator was sold to someone else. He then located another one which was flown in overnight. Bryan brought this to the participants home, personally laid paving and built a new shed for the replacement generator.
This meant that the participant could leave his temporary motel accommodation and return home feeling secure that his clinically-required air conditioning and the pump for their bore was operational. With the newly-installed generator, the water supply and lights were working. The power returning to electrical appliances and the fridge meant the participant was able to cook meals again in his home with his wife. The generator was used for four months before the power supply was restored to the area.
"I'm just doing my job. We want to make sure people can stay safely in their homes whilst living with an injury. The bushfires were a stressful time for many so we do what we can to help out"said Bryan.
Another Lifetime Care participant from Glenreagh NSW, northwest of Coffs Harbour, lost everything in the fires. This participant is in temporary accommodation provided by icare in Coffs Harbour whilst repairs to his home are made.
The impact of COVID-19
Over the year, the home modifications team has been managing 113 major modifications for Care customers. Of this, 96 projects are in NSW, 15 interstate and 2 internationals. The impact of COVID-19 caused disruption to some of these planned works.
Interstate flight restrictions and border closures meant the home modifications team were not able to visit sites across the country. During this time local builders continued to build with work being overseen by videoconference. During the builds, all work tasks were scheduled to minimise the number of subcontractors on site at the same time. Normally they would work concurrently.
To continue providing support to Care customers during the travel restrictions enforced by COVID-19, the home modifications team attended to NSW sites by car. The additional travel time caused some delays in the builds and what would normally be a fly-in/fly-out day trip often meant a four-day road trip.
Care customers who had recently has a motor accident or workplace injury, often find themselves in a new world with so many unknowns. When they are in hospital after their accident, they don’t know what’s going to go on in their life, what needs to be adjusted, what will happen next. COVID-19 puts an extra layer of stress to what is already a difficult situation.
"Many people don't realise that home modifications are available and that we can help them return to their home safely. These people have found themselves in a new situation and may not understand that they need adjustments to their home. COVID has created more apprehension and doubt for them. To alleviate their fears, we explain we have thought about their safety and wellbeing and have precautions and protocols in place to address everything we can."
"We're here to help people stay in their home where we can. We want to get people home to live their life as normal and safe as possible. There is a future. We also make the house a functional place for carers to safely work in and for the family that still live in the home" – Matthew, Home Modifications Manager, Specialist Care, icare.
Home modifications are offered to Lifetime Care, Workers Care and Dust Diseases Care customers. In 2019 to 2020 icare completed 103 major home modifications across Lifetime Care, Workers Care and Dust Diseases Care with a total value of $8.4 million.