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John (79) and his beloved border collie Tess have enjoyed life at their scenic 80-acre Adelaide property for many years now. But on a couple of occasions, their independent lifestyle has almost been stripped away.

While the 2015 Sampson Flat bushfires nearly destroyed John’s home, it was in 2009 that he suffered a stroke that would completely change his life.

“It’s like walking into a curtain,” he said.

“One day you’re able… and the next you’re suddenly dependent.

“We’re all bulletproof until it happens.”

Following four months of rehabilitation in hospital – John was unsure of his future at his adored home, which he built himself more than 35 years ago.

“It eventually came time for me to come home and I had no knowledge of how I was going to cope with being in a wheelchair – when you’ve been in hospital for so long it’s quite daunting,” he said.

“Reality sets in – there’s no longer anyone to help, anyone to cook – and you’re living in silence.”

The view over John’s 80-acre property.

John’s family initially suggested he sell his home and move in with them.

But John never saw this as an option. He desperately wanted to be at ‘home’.

With this burning desire, John’s rehabilitation hospital arranged for him to meet with AnglicareSA.

“An AnglicareSA coordinator sat down with myself and my daughter to discuss what help was available,” he said.

“I immediately felt relieved and at ease… and the next week, I had carers coming through and my life began to regain order.

“While the beds were made and my washing and cleaning was done – most importantly I had human interaction and a sense of friendship.”

The Road to Recovery

Initially, John’s road to recovery wasn’t an easy ride. Adapting to life in a wheelchair was a disheartening challenge.

“During my first shopping trip out of hospital – I felt invisible,” he said.

“I put the groceries on the counter and the lady kept engaging with my carer and not me.

“My carer was quick to remind the shop assistant I was the customer – and I’m very grateful because that’s exactly the support I needed.”

AnglicareSA Allied Health exercise groups help older loved ones keep fit and mobile.

With further support, John began to build the courage and strength to walk behind his wheelchair, before eventually getting his driver’s licence reinstated and independently shopping with a walking stick.

Despite losing most mobility on the left side of his body – with the right support services in place, John is able to enjoy life at his beloved property.

Each week, John also attends AnglicareSA Allied Health for group exercise classes.

“I have help in the house three days a week and have been able to employ a handyman gardener who comes fortnightly – which is important as the area is quite prone to bushfires,” he said.

“I’ve had a number of carers throughout the years – my Monday carer has been with me since the beginning and she’s Tess’s best friend.”

Beloved collie Tess

Another carer brought over a slow cooker and together they christened it.

According to John “the smell was to die for” – there was so much food that he and Tess had meals for more than a week.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support,” he said.

“I’ve never felt invaded, uncomfortable or lonely. I feel nothing but appreciation and friendship.

“The thing is with carers… they’re strangers walking through the door, and friends when they leave.”

How John is Helping Us Move Forward

John has been involved in helping us to shape the AnglicareSA aged care culture and community.

With his experience receiving home care services and a range of support from carers, John has been included on AnglicareSA staff recruitment panels – a unique inclusion as part of the process to ensure we’re hiring the best individuals possible.

John’s also delivered speeches on his journey to recovery at other AnglicareSA forums, and is an active member of AnglicareSA’s Home Care North focus group, Council on the Ageing (COTA) and Probus.

John chatting with AnglicareSA General Manager Aged Care Services, Daniel Aitchison