Introducing Bupa Therapy: giving power to people with disability

“It’s time to find ways to be inclusive, and bring disability out into the open.” Bupa Therapy, a new centre for people living with disability, has been designed to help do just that.

Like many mothers, Michelle Francis’s life revolves around her son Chris. But unlike most mothers, Michelle’s 31-year-old son isn’t expected to reach a point in his life when he’ll become independent. 
 
“I have to do some of his toileting needs, I medicate him, shower him, shave him, basically I do everything for him. It’s a 24 hour job and it’s exhausting, but I do it because I love him,” she says.
 
Chris lives with autism and epilepsy. His mum is his full time carer, which at times can feel isolating and lonely. 
 
“Sometimes when I get really down I think it’s like being in prison. You just don’t get any release from it,” she says.
 
There are thousands of people around Australia, like Chris and Michelle, who are all trying to navigate the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
 
Trying to manage, trying to thrive, and trying to live extraordinary lives, all while juggling multiple appointments in multiple locations which take time, energy, and money.
 
So when Bupa reached out to Michelle for advice on how best to design a new centre for disability services, she was only too happy to help.
Michelle, mother of Chris
“It was really nice to be asked for a change, as a carer, to actually have some input.”
 
The new Bupa Therapy centre is opening in West Melbourne. It will bring different services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology all together under one roof.
 
It removes some of the need to travel between appointments and therapists, giving back valuable time to people like Kristy Trajcevski.  
 
“Going to lots of different [appointments and] places is often very intimidating,” says Kristy, who lives with cerebral palsy. “It would be nice to have the same group of people doing the same stuff, who know you, and can help you reach your goals.”
 
Kristy has also been called on for advice and expertise in designing the centre, you can read more about her experience living with cerebral palsy, here.

Bupa Therapy - A place for people with disability in West Melbourne

Bupa has listened to these stories. The centre aims to provide services which will hopefully make life just that little bit easier for everyone involved in the care process. It will have dedicated lounge areas with tea, coffee, and Wi-Fi where family members and carers can relax. They’ll also be able to connect with other carers while they wait.

“I think it helps other carers to be able to talk about our experiences and share ideas,” Michelle says.

“We want this to be a welcoming environment for people with disability, a place of comfort and convenience for carers and a great place to work for clinicians,” says Bupa Medical Managing Director, Dr Ros Blakley.

The Bupa Therapy centre will initially cater for people 18 or older, and provide specialist therapy services for people with neurophysiological needs. This includes people living with acquired brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, and stroke survivors.

“We’re not assuming we have all the answers. Instead, we’re listening to the experts – people with disability, their families and carers - and have designed this facility with them at the centre. To provide a better customer experience, everything from layout to lighting has been considered,” Dr Blakley says.
Bupa Therapy Hub kitchen
It’s something Kristy is glad to be a part of. 
 
“That, I think, is the core of what the NDIS is all about. It’s about finding ways to be inclusive, and bringing disability out of the closet,” she says. 
 
This therapy centre will not only be accessible for Bupa customers, but for non-Bupa customers too. It will be a part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), giving people greater access to the care they need.  
 
"For the first time, people with disabilities funded by the Federal Government under the NDIS will have a chance to choose their health and care provider. They’ve told us in our consumer research that they want a better standard of care and have encouraged Bupa to take that lead," Dr Blakley said.
 
“At the same time it’s widely recognised that there is a real shortage of therapy services in the community designed to help people with disability, their families and their carers. Often these services are disjointed and delivered across multiple locations with little or no coordination."
 
While there are currently only plans for this facility at the moment, based on feedback and demand, Bupa will determine whether this model could be replicated elsewhere so that more people across Australia can receive a similar integrated approach to care. 
 
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