Sureya reconnects with lifeAssist

by Fran Atcheson, lifeAssist "Housing Support for The Aged Program" (HSAP)

Sureya, aged 73, has endured homelessness and loneliness – but with our help she has a home and is reconnecting with family and friends.

With her eldest grandchild entering his teenage years, her son-in-law suggested that Sureya could move out or pay $200 a week if she wanted to continue to reside with the family. She was on occasions locked out of the family home and criticised about the level of cleanliness of the home

In January of 2014 at age 73, she became homeless and with only a few suitcases of clothes and other possessions she left the family home and moved in with a friend from her Church. Sureya was homeless and the parents of her grandchildren stated she was to have no contact with them or her precious grandchildren.

Sureya, a woman who lived in India all her life and raised two children, migrated to Australia at age 60 after being widowed. She came to Australia at in 2001 to live with her daighter, son-in-law and two young children. Sureya lived in the family home, without income and became the household’s full-time carer of the children with responsibility for all household tasks, while the parents of the children  both worked in full-time employment.

All went quite well, although on reflection Sureya said that neither her daughter nor her son-in-law showed much interest if she was having medical or other issues. The family regularly attended Church on Sundays. Her daughter bought her clothes or other basics. Sureya naturally formed a strong bond with the children as she was their full-time carer.

Sureya’s physical and mental health were impacted negatively. Fortunately, with the assistance of agencies and in particular Villa Maria and City of Knox, she was soon housed in an Office of Housing unit in an area unfamiliar to her. Villa Maria linked her to St Vincent de Paul and her new unit was furnished sparsely. Villa Maria referred her to the lifeAssist Housing Support for The Aged Program.

I met with Sureya and organised to purchase a washing machine as she did not have one. I also purchased a fridge as her second hand fridge was not keeping food at the right temperature.

The supplier of these goods set up the washing machine and removed the second hand fridge. They also provided a huge box of washing machine powder at my request free of charge. Sureya is deeply religious and had begun attending her local Church but found the walk there difficult at times due to weather and health ailments. I supplied her with taxi vouchers and encouraged her to use these to get to and from Church on days she felt she was unable to walk there. I also told her to use the taxi vouchers to get to her trusted GP in the area in which she used to live.

I  employed staff from an agency for an eight week period to take her out weekly andnorientate her to her new area. I asked them to show her where the local library, Post Office, Community Health Centre, Arts Centre and Neighbourhood Houses were and to take her shopping. I told Sureya she could choose where the worker took her. Sureya was very grateful for the goods supplied and also for the weekly outings. The worker on one occasion took her back to where she used to play Bingo. She excitedly told me that everyone was very pleased to see her.

On her grandson’s fifteenth birthday she went back to the Church the family used to attend. She said that even though the family snubbed her and left, she was at least able to give her grandson a small present and a hug.

Sureya has been linked in with lifeAssist Pastoral Care Worker Siew-Kim Lim and has been in contact with her son who still lives in India. He has two children and has said that he will try to visit her this year. Sureya has recently had an Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) assessment and is soon to be offered an Aged Care package. HSAP will close at this point. Sureya asked if I could be her Aged Care worker.