Dementia Action Week

Dementia is a complex condition that affects an individual’s memory, thinking, and behaviour. The condition is marked by the gradual loss of cognitive functions and can cast a shadow on the lives of those it touches. This process can interfere with daily life and activities, creating challenges that extend beyond memory alone. 

But the impact doesn’t stop at the individual – families find themselves learning to embrace the unexpected. Caregivers, often family members, become the architects of patience and understanding. The shared laughs and stolen moments of clarity become the building blocks of resilience. Society, too, learns the importance of compassion and accessible support systems. Dementia isn’t just a personal challenge; it’s a communal responsibility to ensure that every person, regardless of memory’s whims, continues to be valued and included. 

Dementia doesn’t discriminate, and neither do we. Our services are designed to be inclusive and accessible, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background or abilities, receives the support they deserve. At LiveBig, diversity is our strength, and we are committed to fostering an environment of acceptance and understanding. 

At LiveBig, we are here to walk this journey with you, to embrace the uniqueness of every individual, and to demonstrate that a life with dementia can still be a life lived to the fullest. 

Self-Care and Support over the Holidays: Juliet Middleton interview with Vision Australia

LiveBig Chief Executive Officer Juliet Middleton, featured on Vision Australia Radio to speak with Peter Greco on ‘Focal Point’ about the importance of self-care and support for people with disability over the holiday season.

Listen to her fantastic interview now:

As Juliet mentioned in her interview, there is a lot of information about the services we provide on our website, let us know how we can help you.

 Livebig provide services across NSW, Victoria, and Queensland for Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Psychology, Behaviour Support, Individual Counselling and more. Submit your enquiries and referrals through to our website https://www.livebig.com.au/, and our Livebig team will be more than happy to help you.

Accessibility Series – Cheering On Your Favourite Team!

Australia is a nation of sports lovers. There’s no denying that! Our last article provided tips to help you plan a trip to the snow. This month, we look at the different sporting events people with disability can get involved with.

If you’re a person with disability looking to get a little more active as we approach spring, it may be worth checking out Disability Sports Australia (DSA). DSA is dedicated to enabling people with disability to be more active. You can look for a new sport you may like to try or find service providers that offer your favourite sport. Or you can use the NDSP National Referral Hub (NRH) to help you find a sporting club or activity right for you.

If you’re more a spectator than a participant, that’s ok too. You can enjoy your favourite game in many ways, whether you’re passionate about Premier League netball, Australian Football League (AFL) or the National Rugby League (NRL).

So, grab your favourite Guernsey, beanie and scarf and head out to cheer on your favourite team.

Supporting your favourite AFL team

With finals season underway, there are an exciting few weeks ahead. If your team made the finals, make sure you head to the ground to cheer them on!

Several clubs are leading the way in removing barriers and making AFL games accessible for all. St Kilda, Hawthorn and Geelong have sensory rooms at their home grounds. The quiet, dimly lit rooms allow families to escape from the noise and overwhelm of the crowd and sirens. This enables the family to remain at the game and enjoy the atmosphere in a calmer environment.

A sensory room is planned as part of the Docklands Stadium upgrade, and the AFL is considering sensory rooms for other venues.

The AFL website has a complete list of stadiums with links to each stadium for you to confirm accessibility features.

Cheering along at the NRL

As with AFL, finals fever is upon us. If your team is in the finals, Austadiums list each club’s home ground with links to the individual stadium.

If you’d like to play rugby league, the NRL All-abilities program runs competitions for all abilities.

Shooting for goals at netball

Though the Premier League season finished in August, there’s still an opportunity to support state-based competitions. If you’re in Victoria and not ready for the season to end yet, you can cheer on the teams in Netball Victoria’s State Finals, including mixed all-ability teams.

The finals are played from Friday, 30 September, to Sunday, 2 October, at the State Netball Centre, Parkville.

A-League saves you from winter sports withdrawal

If you suffer sports withdrawal over the summer off-season, don’t be sad! Football Australia has announced the A-League 2022/23 dates, starting in October. You can view the match calendar here. Austadiums list the match venues with links to each stadium to check accessibility.

 

Check back with us next month for the next LiveBig accessibility segment.

Men’s Health Week – Focusing on Physical and Mental Health

International Men’s Health Week 2022 is being held around the world from June 13 to June 19.

It brings together leading men’s health organisations across the globe with the goal to increase awareness of male health issues and encourage the development of health policies and services specifically for men, boys and their families.

In Australia, Men’s Health Week is coordinated by the Western Sydney University Centre for Men’s Health.

Men’s Health Week focuses on not just on physical health, but also men’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. The week aims to highlight the health challenges faced by men in Australia and worldwide, with events to improve the physical, emotional and mental health of men and boys.

The theme of Men’s Health Week 2022 is Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys – focusing on creating physically, mentally and emotionally healthy environments in the home, workplace and in social settings.

To mark Men’s Health Week 2022, the Australian Government department of health’s Healthy Male website has set out the five factors that prevent men from seeking information and support when it comes to health – both physical and mental.

The first is denial – or thinking that whatever is going on is not a big deal. That can include dismissing symptoms as a part of getting older. Healthy Male says: “When we miss the opportunity to act early, minor issues can become much bigger. It’s important to … seek out information and support as soon as you notice something is not quite right.”

The second barrier is delaying. Many men will wait to see if their symptoms go away before seeking help. Again, Healthy Male advises men to see a health professional sooner rather than later. Take a moment out from your busy life now, before the health issue REALLY starts to interfere with your life.

The third barrier for many men is being seen as weak. Healthy Male says: “Often boys and men have been taught to embody traditionally masculine traits of strength, independence and self-reliance … (but) health issues happen to everyone and speaking up about them is the strongest thing you can do.”

The fourth barrier is embarrassment. Many men are uncomfortable talking about their health issues, but they should remember that health professionals have seen and heard it all.

The final barrier is often not knowing what information to trust. Particularly in these modern digital times, with the advent of the so-called “Dr Google” and social media, sorting fact from fiction can be difficult.

 

Where can men reach out for support?

For medical issues, your GP or local medical clinic is the best first point of call.

Other resources can be found at the Healthy Male website or Western Sydney University Men’s Health Centre.

Men and boys seeking help with mental health issues should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Flood Relief and Support for People Living with Disability

The saying goes: It never rains but it pours, and that is certainly true in parts of Australia right now with one flood emergency followed by another in NSW and Queensland.

A combination of La Nina and a Madden-Julien Oscillation system has brought extremely heavy rainfalls to most of eastern and northern Australia, with forecasts of more wet weather to come.

Which is not great news for anyone, let alone someone living with a disability who needs support.

So, what do you do if you are affected by flood?

Are you in danger?

Of course, the first thing you should do if you are caught in a flood and your life may be in danger is to call Triple-0 for emergency help. That applies to everyone, whether you are living with a disability or not. If you are at risk and need help to evacuate, do not hesitate to call.

You should also monitor your local State Emergency Service (SES) updates on social media for the latest updates affecting your area – especially evacuation orders. You can find out more on the websites for NSW SES or Queensland SES or, in either state, call 132500.

People living with a disability who are affected by floods can also call the NDIS National Contact Centre on 1800 800 110 and press 5 for flood-related issues.

What help is available?

If you have had to evacuate and need temporary access to assistive technologies, supplies or services you had to leave behind, call the NDIS National Contact Centre (1800 800 110 and press 5).

If your need is urgent – particularly if your health is at risk or you are feeling unwell – contact the nearest hospital or medical centre for assistance.

You can also contact our team at LiveBig to find out how we may be able to help you. LiveBig is a specialist allied health and assessment services provider for people with disability, including those on an NDIS plan. We can help you understand what support is available, and how to access it.

The NDIS National Contact Centre can also help you get funding authorised over the phone for repairs or replacement of assistive technology lost or damaged in the floods. If your NDIS plan includes assistive technology, then repairs and maintenance are all part of the package. However, there are limits to the costs of repair or temporary hire. You can find out more on the NDIS Urgent AT Repairs page.

What about disaster payments?

The Australian Government has also announced one-off payments to help people who have been significantly affected by floods. The government’s Recovery Connect website can also help people who find access to recovery centres, food and essential services when they have to evacuate, and ongoing help and support is also available via Services Australia.

What about my job?

Unfortunately for many people, the floods have affected their livelihoods with many businesses forced to close. For people living with a disability, finding a new job can sometimes be harder than for others. Our sister company AimBig Employment are specialists at achieving the right employment outcomes for people with a disability. 

What Do the NDIA’s Assistive Technology Approval Limit Changes Mean For You?

In March, the NDIA announced changes to the way assistive technology purchases are approved – in many cases making it easier for participants to get the equipment they need.

Key among the changes was an increase in the upper limit for automatic approval of assistive technology (AT) purchases, from $5,000 to $15,000.

In announcing the changes, Minister for the NDIS Senator Linda Reynolds said: “I have listened closely to participants and their representatives, and what they have told me is they want a Scheme which is more person-focused, with less red tape.”

For participants who have quotable AT less than $15,000 in their plans, the NDIA will now automatically approve the funding for these items so participants can access this AT faster. However, the usual checks and balances remain – such as providing evidence the AT is needed, and helpful.

The most common purchases in this price range include manual wheelchairs, specialty beds and bathroom chairs/stools. The changes mean that people who need these AT items can get them faster and more easily.

The changes are summarised in an updated guideline and factsheet, which explains what evidence participants need to provide and what to do before buying AT.

Let’s have a look at the main points:

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any equipment or device that helps you do things you can’t usually do because of your disability, or which helps you do things more safely.

Any assistive technology funded under the NDIS must meet the criteria of being reasonable and necessary.

Assistive technology ranges from simple products that can be purchased in retail stores and are easy to set up and use without professional advice, to more complex technologies that will likely require the help of an AT assessor to determine the right solution for your needs. These more complex technologies include things like powered wheelchairs.

What are the cost levels of AT?

  • Low cost – less than $1,500
  • Mid cost – $1,500 to $15,000
  • High cost – more than $15,000

What do the changes mean?

Quotes are no longer needed for mid cost AT items – however, you still need to provide evidence that it is the right AT for your needs. In most cases, that will require speaking with a qualified AT assessor –  such as an allied health practitioner, continence nurse, rehabilitation engineer, AT mentor or other qualified practitioner – and getting written confirmation the AT is right for you. You should do this BEFORE purchasing the AT.

How do I contact an AT assessor, or who should I speak to for more information?

The best person to speak to is your contact at LiveBig. LiveBig is a specialist allied health and assessment services provider for people with disability, including those on an NDIS plan. LiveBig’s team of experts include allied health professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, exercise physiotherapists, speech therapists, counsellors, and assessors.

Were there any other changes?

The NDIA also created a new guideline and template on vehicle modifications and driving supports, which includes simpler and clearer information. These will help participants work with assessors to provide evidence for vehicle modification support requests over $15,000.

The A List – Autism Friendly Activities

For a young person with an autism spectrum disorder, finding the right group of people, the right interests and activities, or the right peer support group can mean living your best life.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has shared a link to The A List. The A List is an online platform for young people with autism and their loved ones to find autism-friendly activities, whatever their age, interests, needs or level of function.

But how does it work, and what sort of activities are included? Let’s take a quick look.

What is The A List?

The A List is an online platform where people can search for social activities that suit their needs. In some cases, you can book directly via the platform or click through to the relevant website to find out more.

It was started by Nicole Gamerov and Bianca Shapiro of MyCareSpace, who saw the need for social options for young people with autism – and decided to do something about it.

How does it work?

There are several ways you can search for the right activities for you. One is to scroll through what is available. Another is to answer a few questions such as your age, location, and interests for a more targeted search of the available options. There are online and in-person activities and groups, including support groups, social networks, and skills development.

What sort of activities are available?

The site offers activities involving animals and nature, arts and crafts, computers and technology, games, holiday camps, carer support groups, peer support, sports, and travel.

For example, you might find a music teacher in your area who has experience teaching children and young people with ASD to learn piano, or perhaps the tuba! Or maybe you like to sing and dance and want to join a drama group.

Or how about an online course to learn about pet care and the skills needed to work in the pet care industry?

There are cooking classes, meditation, dirt bike riding, AFL, horse riding, computer classes, Minecraft groups including moderated Minecraft gaming, choirs, nature camps, mini-golf … the list goes on. There are one-off activities and ongoing courses. There is likely to be an activity to suit a young person with ASD and their interests or needs.

What else is there?

The A List also has a register of support services and resources, such as videos, to help young people with autism improve their social skills, including conversation skills, managing social anxiety and travel skills – even managing the often tricky area of relationships.

Have a look:

The A List has activities and partner organisations across Australia, including support networks and services. As a support organisation ourselves, the team at LiveBig think this is a website worth checking out.

And remember, we at LiveBig are here for all your disability support needs under your NDIS plan, with flexible, tailored services including psychology, occupational therapy, exercise physiology, speech pathology, behaviour support, counselling, physiotherapy and employment support.

One in Half a Million: What the NDIS Quarterly Report Means For You

More than half a million people with a disability receive supports through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Minister for the NDIS Senator Linda Reynolds said: “Reaching half a million participants is remarkable … the Scheme is having a huge impact, not only transforming the lives of people with disability but also the many thousands of family members and carers who play such a big part supporting our participants to live the life they choose.”

The latest NDIS quarterly report to 31 December 2021 shows the number of people participating in the Scheme increased 4 per cent in the past quarter, including more children accessing early intervention supports. The Minister noted of 20,384 people who joined the Scheme, 38% were children – with 77,287 children younger than age 7 now in the NDIS.

More than $6.7 billion in payments was made last quarter, up from $6.4 billion in the previous quarter. The Minister said total payments for the financial year were expected to exceed $29 billion. She added that the Government had ensured the Scheme was fully funded. That is good news for anyone on an NDIS plan.

What are the highlights that matter to me?

The report highlights recent updates relating to Covid and the measures taken to ensure people with a disability could continue to access their needed supports and services. These measures included payments and supports to ensure participants could access vaccinations, as well as advice on using their plans for PPE equipment, cleaning services, isolation or other needs to enable them to continue receiving supports and services as safely as possible. You can now also use your NDIS funding to buy Rapid Antigen Tests for your support workers.

Better outcomes

The report also highlighted a range of improved outcomes for NDIS participants.

One was that NDIS participants were more involved in community and social activities. Such involvement rose from 36% to 45% for people aged 25+ and 34% to 42% for those aged 15-24 years. One particularly interesting aspect of this was that community and social involvement increased the longer a person was in the NDIS.

This data suggests that ongoing funded supports and programs – such as LiveBig’s range of services including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech pathology, behaviour support and counselling – are helping people with a disability to engage more in their local communities, and live their best lives.

And while 71% of people aged 25 and older said that, under the NDIS, they had more control and say in their lives, that percentage increased to 80% after four years on a plan.

Workplace participation remained steady.

In relation to children with a disability, the report also reveals that the percentage of parents who say the NDIS has helped their child’s development rose from 91% after one year to 96% after three years. The percentage who said the NDIS had increased their child’s independence went from 62% in the first year to 72% after four years.

All of these statistics suggest that finding the right supports and services for you can have a strong influence on allowing you to live your best life.

Have your say

Another aspect the report touched on was the continued work towards a co-designed process so that people on the Scheme can have more say in how their plan works.

And other reforms are expected to allow you to better access forms and other information online through an easier-to-use portal and website.

Want to know more? We can help.

If you have any questions or need help, reach out to our experienced team at LiveBig.

Navigating The First Year of Autism Diagnosis

Processing your emotions about the diagnosis can seem overwhelming enough without understanding all the information that accompanies it.

The federal government-funded Autism Awareness Australia has an amazing online resource, Autism: What Next? to help guide the first steps of your autism journey. It was created by people with autism and their loved ones, for people with autism and their loved ones.

But let’s start at the beginning.

What is autism?

Autism: What Next? defines autism spectrum disorder as a development disorder that “affects the way people communicate and relate with the world”. It is key to note that, as the name implies, it covers a full spectrum of behaviours. And while some behaviours can make life a little more tricky to navigate, some are important skills and strengths.

How is it diagnosed?

There is no precise test to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. It is based on behaviours using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Some key diagnostic behaviours include little or no interest in other people’s interests or emotions or difficulty making friends or engaging in conversation. People diagnosed at Level 1 need some support, Level 2 need substantial support, and Level 3 need very substantial support.

While most ASD diagnoses are made in early childhood, some Level 1 ASD might not be diagnosed until a child starts school or even high school.

And sometimes it can go unrecognised into adulthood for many reasons – not least because, like every human being, no two people with autism are the same. Some people may have been misdiagnosed when younger, or their circumstances may have changed. When people live independently, focus on their behaviours may highlight additional needs.

What next?

Whatever the case, there are supports available for people with autism, and their loved ones, for each stage of the autism journey. Autism: What Next? has a wide range of information and is well worth a read.

LiveBig

At LiveBig, we deliver flexible, tailored supports that meet our clients’ individual needs under their NDIS plan. We have a wide range of services, including psychology, occupational therapy, exercise physiology, speech pathology, behaviour support, counselling, physiotherapy, and finding and keeping a job.

What about employment?

While being diagnosed with ASD might affect how you approach a job, and what you need to work successfully in that job, there are supports to help you find a workplace that suits you.

Also, many of the strengths and skills associated with ASD are highly sought after by employers. At AimBig Employment, our focus is on achieving the best outcomes for all clients. We support people with disability to secure, maintain and thrive in meaningful work and have the connections and the experience to match the right people with the right opportunities.

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