Sixteen-year-old Roman, “loves the wind in his hair and being able to move his body,” according to his mother Daniela. Like most teenagers his age, he’s a fan of bouncing a ball, hopping on a scooter, or hitting the beach. But in contrast to his peers, Roman lives in one of Sunrise2Sunrise’s in-home voluntary accommodations, where he receives personalised care 24-7.
Despite his towering physical appearance, standing tall at six-foot-five, Roman is a highly vulnerable individual. His 52-year-old mum’s biggest concern is that, “he’s not a person who has a sense of safety or danger.”
In fact, since the onset of puberty, Roman’s challenges have increased. Given that he’s “prone to injuries,” it’s meant he needs active care and support around the clock.
“He needs to be gently and appropriately (within guidelines) redirected, reassured, and kept out of harm’s way,” explains Daniela.
Roman’s complex support needs stem from living with a combination of disabilities which include Autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability. He’s also completely non-verbal, incontinent at night, and experiences high levels of anxiety.
School and social activities have been especially challenging for Roman. Daniela says, “even in a special school he’s not been able to be in a room with more than a few people because it’s overwhelming for him.”
“He enjoys being outdoors and the sense of open spaces helps him to self-regulate. But indoor places and having to remain sedentary for long periods requires quite a lot of control and focus for him, and they’re anxiety-provoking,” adds Daniela.
When it comes to day-to-day living, Roman also needs prompts with basic survival skills, like feeding and washing himself.
Efforts to keep Roman safe, calm, and regulated over the years have also had a ripple effect across the entire family. His two sisters have often had to take responsibility for their own education, health, and well-being.
Daniela laments that prioritizing Roman’s care has taken away a regular childhood from her daughters.
“There’s been no sitting around the table, no mealtimes together, and no TV time together.”
When Sunrise2Sunrise stepped in to help Roman and his family, Daniela says they took a compassionate and person-centred approach, which firstly meant getting to know Roman.
Carers conducted a series of shadow shifts to forensically examine all of Roman’s activities, from his bedtime routine to his eating habits. This allowed them to map out a personalised plan to gradually transition Roman from his family home to his new accommodation.
Based on their findings, the Sunrise2Sunrise team matched Roman with the right carers, then hooked them into his larger care team. Roman now has access to careers who work alongside his psychiatric medical care team, behavioural psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists.
Daniela says Roman’s comprehensive care has been, “reliant on collaboration and regular meetings,” between the carers and medical professionals – and themselves as parents.
By forming this sort of alliance, Sunrise2Sunrise has taken active steps to help Roman continue to build a level of independence – starting with life skills.
“He’s learning some personal skills now, where he can load a dishwasher, load a washing machine, hang up his clothes,” beams Daniela.
While this was a journey that had already started at home, Daniela says with the support of Sunrise2Sunrise these tasks are now, “part of a daily schedule of activities.”
Aside from giving Roman a solid foundation in domestic responsibilities, the Sunrise2Sunrise team are also, “developing an outdoor schedule of community access activities.” Daniela says this is, “important as it gives Roman purpose. It encourages him to engage, and to learn some skills.”
Already Roman is reaping the benefits of a constant and predictable routine and environment. These days it’s not unusual for him to push a trolley at the supermarket or be responsible for his own self-care – things that once would have been unimaginable.
Prior to engaging the help of Sunrise2Sunrise, Daniela recalls the horrors of trying to find appropriate accommodation for Roman, with 14 knock-backs due to his behavioural issues.
When the time came to wave good-bye as he headed to Sunrise2Sunrise, she remembers the trepidation of those early days, describing the feeling as “a form of grief.” However, while the family planned for the worst, they now feel lucky.
“Roman has done better with Sunrise2Sunrise than we ever anticipated. He has been sleeping more there than he did at home. In the last few years, he has had longer and happier periods of joy, smiles, and engagement,” describes Daniela.
In the past, Daniela says Roman had only lasted around 48 hours in other accommodation places, due to his fraught sleep. Even at home there were testing times, especially during the height of pandemic lockdowns.
“He wouldn’t fall asleep without someone being in his room, sitting in a chair at a distance to offer him reassurance – ensuring that he was safe,” recounts Daniela.
In less than a year, with the care plan of Sunrise2Sunrise, not only are Roman’s sleep patterns improved, but he’s also enjoying the benefits of, “longer periods of calm and settled behaviour.”
“He’s staying for longer periods in an indoor setting. When I go and visit him, he behaves as though he’s comfortable in the space and that he feels like it’s a safe place,” states Daniela.
Daniela credits these momentous positive changes in her son to the considerate approach of Sunrise2Sunrise. She says they are the sort of team that will turn up to Roman’s Christmas party on their own time, and not because they are rostered on to do so.
The success of Roman’s transition to an in-home voluntary accommodation has not only made a difference to his quality of life, but it’s also had a tremendous impact on his family too.
For the first time in what seems like forever, Roman’s family are planning an overseas trip.
“It’d be our first trip in 22 years and my girls have never left Australia,” declares Daniela with a newfound confidence.