More needed: Hillcrest resident Mary Starling receives all the support Hillcrest can provide but requires more.
More needed: Hillcrest resident Mary Starling receives all the support Hillcrest can provide but requires more.

Services and support for Mid West people who are deaf and blind are inadequate according to organisations specialising in deafblindness.

Able Australia, a non-profit disability services group, said a ‘huge crisis’ was looming for deafblind Australians and that governments needed to do more.

They said huge numbers of people were being left isolated and depressed with the issue being ‘understated, under-supported and virtually swept under the carpet’.

Assistant manager of Hillcrest aged care facility Joy McDonald said that while the facility worked with contracted allied health services and hospital therapists more needed to be available for the blinddeaf.

“About 40 per cent of our residents have a combination of deafness and blindness,” Ms McDonald said.

“Governments need to fund support for these people both in the community and in aged care.

“We don’t receive much training in the way of hearing aids, like fixing them; there’s not a very good set up here (Geraldton).”

Ms McDonald said more services also needed to be available to visit the premises as it was extremely difficult to get demented patients to outside appointments.

Hillcrest resident of over a year, Mary Starling, who is described as a frail yet strong-willed woman, has a fractured femur, two hearing aids and cataracts.

The 94-year-old said waiting on hearing aid repairs in Perth upset her a lot.

“I’m not in my own house, I’m here and when they take my hearing aids I just have to get on with it,” she said.

“When I can’t hear I get very sad.”

Separate organisation, Senses Foundation WA said the surface was only being scratched when it came to adequate services.

Senses Foundation CEO Debbie Karasinski said their organisation provided some excellent services but there was simply not enough of the service.

She said Senses Foundation provided a Statewide service to people who were deafblind in Western Australia.

“Senses Foundation is the only organisation in Australia providing services throughout the lifespan, from babies to the aged.

“Senses Foundation reported in a study entitled ‘Unseen and Unheard’ that 8800 people were deafblind in WA.

Of those, 2288 lived in rural and remote Western Australia and 181 indicated that they were currently receiving formal disability services.

They also reported there was a steady increase in the number of people who were deafblind in WA because of incidences of genetic and chromosomal disorders, foetal alcohol syndrome, improved premature birth survival rates and West Australians living longer.

The WA Country Health Service said Geraldton had no specific deafblind services as such, but services were provided by allied health through a child development team and via aged/community care.

Senses Foundation can be contacted at www.senses.asn.au.

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