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Young people in nursing homes - Fact Sheet

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Young people in nursing homes - Fact Sheet

This is a serious social issue, which can and must be fixed.

There are too many young Australians stuck in nursing homes. An estimated 3500 people under the age of 60 live in nursing homes, which are not suited to their needs. Many of these people are socially isolated and have been forgotten.

The facts
It is a sad fact that 82% of young people living in nursing homes never go out to visit their friends. Nearly half never go on trips to the shops or the movies or sports events. Here are some sobering statistics about young people living in nursing homes:

  • 56% don't have a say in when they go to bed
  • 52% won't be visited by a friend this year
  • 27% are parents of school-aged children
  • 13% hardly ever go outside.

The following quotes illustrate how moving from a nursing home to an environment that is more home-like has given these young people the ability to make everyday choices for themselves. These people participated in the "My future my choice initiative" and were part of the Summer Foundation's evaluation of that same program:

"Right now, you know, I love it. I can play music loudly and I can play my own music."

"Clean my own clothes. . . just chuck them in the washing machine, put some powder in it, and psssh."

"You can make your own mind up what you want for tea. what you want for lunch or whatever."

"Just being yourself, eat when you want to eat, just be who you want to be."

"At first, it was unusual to go out the front door but now I've done it quite often and it's just. . . it's not so formal. . . you're free. I have a life."

"It feels like home. I never could say I wanted to be in a nursing home. I could never call it 'home'."

What is needed
Young people in nursing homes want a range of creative and innovative solutions to enable them to actively participate in the community and have a real choice about where they live. There needs to be systemic change and a dramatic increase in the number of supported housing options in Australia to stem the flow of young people into nursing homes.

Young people with disability want to be able to make the fundamental everyday choices the rest of us take for granted: what to eat, when to eat it and what time to go to bed. They have told us they do not necessarily want to live in a group home with other people with disability, and would like to be part of the community, where they have ready access to community facilities and services.

The solution
In countries such as Canada, integrated models of housing have been operating successfully for over 15 years.

For the past twenty years there have been various incarnations of the group home model where people with disability are expected to live with five or more other people with disability.

Group homes work for some people but not for everyone. People with acquired disabilities such as brain injury or Multiple Sclerosis often have partners and/or school age children - their needs are therefore not met by group homes.

In addition to building more housing, we need to expand the range of housing options so that people with disability have real choice about where they live.

Since 2008, the Summer Foundation has been working on the development of the next generation of housing and support for people with disability in Victoria who require access to 24-hour, on-call support. A similar model began several years ago as a Synapse initiative in Queensland. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can play a key step in providing independence for young people with disabilities as it could provide the necessary funding to finance supported accommodation options.

References and further information

The Summer Foundation is committed to growing a movement that will resolve the issue of young people living in nursing homes. Supporting, informing and empowering people with disability and their families is key to resolving this issue. Three key areas of focus are conducting and fostering research, supporting people with disability to share their stories, and developing integrated housing demonstration projects. Visit their website for more information:


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