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On Friday 3rd December, we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day that highlights that disability inclusion is essential to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security.

At Lifewise Health and Disability, we are constantly figuring out new ways to improve our services, to support our clients and their individual needs. This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we wish to draw attention to the benefit that added flexibility of spending and support has on people’s lives.

Pearl (right) is one of our clients who has been with Lifewise for around twelve years and has built up a strong relationship with the Lifewise team. Over the years, Pearl has often chatted to Michelle Smith, Disability and Support Team Manager, with ideas and suggestions about improving our Lifewise services and enhancing our programmes.

Pearl suffers from physical disabilities and dietary requirements, which can make life quite challenging at times. “I got to the point about six years ago where I wasn’t able to eat very much and was surviving mostly on supplements and smoothies. I had no appetite. It was hard to think what to eat,” says Pearl.

Recently, however, disability support funding has been made more flexible to cater better for people’s needs and the outcomes they are wanting to achieve. Although, Pearl mentions, when the new funding came out, “it was difficult to know specifically what it meant for someone like me.”

Pearl reached out to Michelle, and together they worked through the process. It became clear that Pearl required someone who could cook for her and understand her dietary requirements. It also highlighted Pearls need for a new cold-store freezer that could store enough food and that she wouldn’t injure herself accessing it. Thankfully, the new flexible funding was able to fund a chef and partially fund her new freezer.

Pearl taking a selfie with Sally the chef in the background preparing Pearl's food

Pearl was able to hire a chef, Sally, five months ago, who creates delicious meal options that can be frozen and reheated easily. Sally comes in once a month and works with Pearl to slowly introduce new foods back into her diet. Since then, Pearl’s diet has improved immensely.

Before Sally, Pearl hadn’t eaten meat for 35 years. Now one of her favourite dishes is Sally’s meatballs and tomato sauce. Since integrating new foods, Pearl’s health and appetite have increased exponentially. She has even felt hungry at times, for the first time in 10 years!

Pearl enjoys everything Sally prepares for her and loves the ability to walk through the menu and introduce new foods at her own pace in the comfort of her home. She also feels more secure knowing the same person coming into her home is someone she has built a strong relationship with. “Sally is my angel. She is so easy to work with,” says Pearl.

Sally the chef cooking in the kitchen paid for from Pearl's disabilities funding

“Having nice food is so important to my physiological and physical wellbeing. It has been quite a heart-breaking process not being able to cook for myself anymore. I couldn’t have gotten back to myself without someone like Sally.”

It is not just Pearl’s health and relationship with food that has improved, but she is both relieved and ecstatic to socialize again and have people around for food. Because of Pearl’s dietary requirements, she doesn’t feel confident going into a café or restaurant with friends and family. “Being able to invite people for a meal without having to think how I’m going to do this really takes the pressure of it and makes it doable” says Pearl. Once the COVID-19 restriction allows it, Pearl can’t wait to have people over for lunch.

“It has been such a beautiful experience having access to these things. I can’t speak more highly of it,” says Pearl. “It’s a fantastic way of managing your funding, and to have such a positive outcome for someone like me is wonderful. I’d never been able to do these things without the new flexibility of the IF funding,” says Pearl. “I’m so grateful that Lifewise has supported it. Without the support of Michelle and Lifewise, it never would have happened.”

If you would like to learn more about what disability support options are available to you or your whānau, please click here.