Heather Coombes continues to write, maintain her fitness and live an interdependent life with the support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The 66-year-old Thornlands local, who has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user, accesses support workers to assist with writing her motivational books.
“Ever since I was a little kid I loved reading and the power of words, (so) writing is one of my NDIS goals. I usually try to write at least an hour a day,” Heather said.
“There is a lot to the business part of writing. My support workers help, filming me for promotion work used on my website.
“My admin support worker will sometimes type on my computer while I dictate to her. Her assistance enables me to work faster, not just for composition, but also for emails and getting the word out there about my books.”
Heather’s first book, Marathon Wheeler: Living with Physical Disability, is a memoir, and it provides practical hints on dealing with physical disability that can be helpful for families, health professionals, carers and people with disabilities.
“I thought I had a unique story to tell. It was a cathartic experience — an attempt to make sense of my life and to live productively,” she said.
“I also spend a lot of time with people without disability, discovering how few understand the depth of what we go through.”
Heather said she is hopeful her next book, about the many faces of grief and pathways to healing, will be completed by the year’s end.
When she isn’t writing, Heather recognises the importance of fitness to maintain her independence.
“With COVID-19 restrictions swimming went by the wayside. However, I have just found out Cleveland swimming pool has wheelchair accessible facilities so, I may swim again down the track,” she said.
“Warm water relaxes my tight muscles and improves the range of my movements, and I am less restricted with my muscles.”
Heather also has an exercise physiologist visit her home three times a week.
“If I didn’t have exercise physiology I’d stiffen up completely,” she said.
“I’m in a motorised wheelchair, and I walk on a walking frame with supervision of my support workers or exercise physiologist.
“If I didn’t keep up my walking I’d be that much stiffer, which would affect my ability to live independently.”
Heather utilises support workers to continue to live by herself.
“One of my NDIS goals is to maintain my independence as much as I can,” she said.
“I want to keep out of residential care as long as I can, so the home care I am receiving and the physical exercise I am undertaking is helping me be as fit as I can, and as independent as I am able to be, in my own home.
“I have specialised low FODMAP diet meals delivered to me once a month from Melbourne. My evening support workers get breakfast ready for the next morning. My day support workers assist with cleaning, laundry, personal care, and in the mornings help me to dress.”
Heather said the support she receives from the NDIS was important for her to have a normal relationship with her supportive family.
“My brother and his family continue to visit me once a week. It enables me to be a family contributor rather than those closest to me being carers,” she said.
“I don’t like depending on family for things that support workers can do. I want to be a sister, a sister-in-law, or an aunt, without the complication of being cared for.”
Heather received assistance to apply for and implement her NDIS funding from Carers Queensland’s NDIS Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community Program for the Brisbane region.
Heather said her first experience with her Local Area Coordinator (LAC), when the NDIS rolled out in Queensland, was an “absolute delight. I couldn’t have wished for better”.
“When I first met my LAC, I was struggling alone with getting to bed at night; it used to take me two hours from turning the TV off to putting my head on the pillow in bed,” she said.
“After an operation for removal of melanomas, my physical fitness deteriorated. My LAC asked, “Why not employ an evening support worker to help you with getting to bed?” It was the best move I made with the NDIS. I’m not as exhausted now and I still get this service today.”
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Heather and her books at https://heathercoombes.net/