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Despite Complex Needs, Cheryl’s Focus is on Living Life

Cheryl has a lust for life that hasn’t been diminished by serious illness. In fact, according to her husband, Alston, the 67-year-old “gets involved” in activities wherever she can, with the help of her carers from Sunrise2Sunrise.

The grandmother of two has a special kind of relationship with her carers who provide supports that improve her quality of life. Alston says Cheryl often calls them “her daughters” and is excited to sit down with them for a cup of tea and piece of cake.

When Cheryl joined Sunrise2Sunrise in 2019, she was still haunted by the emotional scars of overcoming breast cancer, which had brought her long career in aged care to an abrupt end. Added to that was a fresh diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and bipolar disorder – meaning her care needs where quite complex.

The athletic girl who liked to party

Cheryl and Alston have been happily married for 46 years. They met in their native Sri Lanka under the watchful eye of a chaperone, before migrating to Australia in their 20s. Alston fondly remembers the young woman who loved music and parties, while also having a fierce reputation for facing-off with her classmates on the hockey field.

These days Cheryl moves at a slower pace. She has trouble with tremors and shaking, and uses a four-wheel walker to assist with her mobility. She also has bouts of depression which makes everything that much harder. This means Cheryl requires someone to help her with daily living skills, like showering and grooming. A dedicated carer is also required to accompany her to all her medical appointments, including regular trips to the physiotherapist.

From Sri Lankan pancakes to morning melodies

While Cheryl’s life is not as active as it used to be, Alston says her carers ensure that she remains connected to her youthful spirit. Her “daughters” are always planning activities that tap into the things she once enjoyed doing independently.

There’s regular time spent in her beloved garden tending to the vegetable plot. And she even gets to roll up her sleeves in the kitchen – whether it’s helping to bake cakes or peel onions.

“It makes a big difference because she’s getting what she likes to eat. They’re preparing what she likes to eat,” explains Alston.

Prior to the pandemic, Cheryl was also able to soak up the uplifting atmosphere delivered through music with regular trips with her carer to the CBD, to partake in Morning Melodies. Plus, she was taken to sing-alongs with fellow Sri Lankans at a community run association – a way to maintain her cultural connections.

“She met friends from the same age group, and they had a Sri Lankan dance sing song. Yeah, that’s lovely,” recalls Alston.

The Sri Lankan supermarket is also a regular staple on Cheryl’s itinerary. Her carer’s will take her to pick up supplies for some of her favourite dishes, like Hoppers, a Sri Lankan rice-flour pancake that’s coconut-laced and topped with a sweet-spicy sambal and fruity chutney.

Nothing is too big, or small

At a recent birthday dinner to mark another trip around the sun for Cheryl, Alston remembers that the celebration didn’t quite go to plan. By the end of the dinner, Cheryl was carted off in an ambulance and headed to the hospital. Throughout this stressful event, Alston says her carer remained by her side – from the restaurant to the hospital, and back home.

“She was there with her till she went to sleep. That’s how they cared. It was getting late, and they were not worried about that. They were more worried about Cheryl,” Alston remembers with gratitude.

While Alston heads up a timber company as CEO, which is a job with big responsibilities, he’s comforted by the fact that his wife Cheryl is receiving the best care.

“I’m doing my work without worrying what’s happening at home,” states Alston.

According to Alston the carers have been instrumental in lifting Cheryl’s overall mood and happiness.

“She actually looks forward to them coming –that is a good sign,” he declares with a smile in his voice.

“I recommend Sunrise2Sunrise from top to bottom, from the CEO Ravi to all of the carers.”

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