A lifetime of kindness

After years of helping children with disabilities learn how to ride horses, Denise Ward is determined that scoliosis and a few other health issues won’t stop her from living her best life at home.

And the fiercely independent 79-year-old is doing just that! Living life to the full at her Echuca home with her cat, Jess, and her lovely garden, thanks to a government-funded Home Care Package through Uniting AgeWell.

Denise gets help with household chores, shopping and gardening, as well as attending Pilates classes twice a week, and is impressed with the kindness and care that Uniting AgeWell provides. “I can’t speak highly enough of Uniting AgeWell,” she says. “They go out of their way to help me, with everything!”

But then, she’s spent her whole life going out of her way to help others. English-born Denise met her first husband in the UK and moved to Victoria with him at the age of 21. She was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager, had surgery and together they raised four children in Melbourne. She volunteered at Riding for the Disabled – and started up a few groups across Victoria. She later went on to work for the MS Society.

The great-grandmother firmly believes in empowering those with disabilities to give everything a go. “There was this boy, probably in his early teens, who was non-verbal, did not interact with people and used a wheelchair. He visited one day, and gently reached out and stroked a Shetland pony on the nose. I tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye among us volunteers,” Denise recalls. “Then there was an 82-year-old man who was blind and absolutely determined to ride a horse. He did – and he loved it!”

Despite a few health issues, Denise is happy and busy at home. She visits her husband, John, who has dementia and is in care, belongs to a number of horticultural societies and loves reading.

“I’m a realist, and I like to have a plan in place for the future,” Denise says. “Should I need a higher level of care when my husband is no longer around, then I’ll be moving into Uniting AgeWell Strathdon Community in Melbourne. My Mum and Dad were both there, and they loved it. And three of my kids are in Melbourne, so I’ll be close to them.”

Denise is one of many happy home care clients living their best lives in Echuca.

Kaylene DeWacht, Uniting AgeWell Community Programs Manager for Loddon Mallee South, says since July last year there has been a 16 per cent increase in the number of clients in Echuca and outlying areas including Moama, Kyabram, Rochester, Lockington and Elmore, taking out home care packages through Uniting AgeWell. Kaylene says the Echuca-based team has recently been providing Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) services to eligible clients, with Flexible Respite care giving clients’ access to group activities; and one-on-one support in the client’s home or in the community.

“We have also been working with the Echuca Regional Hospital to support patients who have been discharged to settle back into their homes and regain their independence,” Kaylene says.

To find out more about the care and support options available, call Uniting AgeWell’s Home Care team on (03) 5454 2100.

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