As a child growing up in Germany, it was always Christine’s dream to move to Ireland. She made the move here nearly twenty years ago and eventually ended up moving to Mayo.

“On my birthday I found a house online here in Mayo. I was taken by a picture of the house by the sea and once I visited, I knew it had to be. Moving to Mayo ten years ago,” she says. “I felt I had found my home here. In Germany I was always moving around, and I could never find my place, never, but I found it here.”

Unfortunately, four years in to Christine’s dream, it turned into a nightmare when she suffered a stroke. Christine was left feeling very ill and weak. It was a challenge for her trying to adjust to this new reality. When she was ready to leave hospital there was no adequate housing or caring options that fulfilled her need for a wheelchair accessible home and personal assistance throughout the day. 

In her own home Christine is able to enjoy the simple pleasure of preparing a home cooked meal for herself.

At the age of 38, Christine moved into a nursing home in Belmullet, Mayo.  At that time, she was not to know that it would remain her home for a further eight years. The nursing home mainly catered for high dependency patients with advanced dementia, so it was extremely unsettling for a young woman trying to rebuild her life. 

While she was living in the nursing home Christine missed many things, “I missed not being able to make my own food and I couldn’t have any pets. I am a big animal lover,” she says. Thinking back on her time in the nursing home Christine remembers how tough it was “it was very hard on my spirit. I was very depressed,” she remembers.

As Christine regained her strength and her mobility improved, she started to make a weekly visit to Irish Wheelchair Association’s Community Centre in Belmullet. There she found the activities including the gardening an enjoyable distraction.  “I found them great, really great,” she says.

It was through making friends at the centre that Christine met some residents of Irish Wheelchair Association’s independent living community. Christine was amazed when she saw their homes and how accessible they were for wheelchair users. It was then she realised that having her own home and living independently was something that could happen for herself. But it would be another two years before her opportunity arose.

Personal Assistant Rita and Christine taking time to tend to the plants in the purpose built polytunnel in an accessible residential and community centre.

When an Irish Wheelchair Association house became available, Christine received tremendous support from her Personal Assistants and Irish Wheelchair Association staff who lobbied hard on her behalf.  It was abundantly clear that as a young woman she could not remain in a nursing home.

When Christine learned that her application for an Irish Wheelchair Association accessible house was successful and that she would be moving into her new home in March 2021, it proved to be very emotional, “I felt nervous, but I also felt freedom. I felt my freedom coming back.”

Christine realised that living independently was something that she could achieve for herself.

Having moved in fully Christine adjusted very quickly. “The quietness, I love,” she says. “I found the noise in the nursing home at night really hard. My room was close to the carers’ stations so there was always so much talking at night. Now the quietness, I love.”

Today Christine’s primary Personal Assistant is Rita, who also worked with her in the nursing home. Irish Wheelchair Association’s Assisted Living Programme stepped in when Christine was moving from the nursing home and offered Rita a role working with Christine at her new home. “I jumped at the chance,” says Rita. “It made the transition for Christine much easier and less worrying. Christine can be independent but she’s not lonely with us coming and going.” According to Rita. 

Christine is also looking forward to Irish Wheelchair Association’s onsite day centre reopening again to meet up with friends and socialise. “I enjoyed gardening and now I’m doing my IELTS (International English Language Testing System) English course. When I pass my course I can apply to any college and that is a dream for me.” Christine feels more hopeful for the future and is busy making plans. She is interested in Forensic IT and is hoping to study in that area when she completes her English course. 

The contrast between Christine’s life a year ago and today is very obvious. Thinking back to the nursing home Christine says she could only rely on her phone and technology for activity. “I was on my phone and watching movies all day. Now I am studying for my English course every day and some days I go out – like last week we went to sit by the sea. I love the sea. One of the best things about my house is I can sit and look out my window and see the sea,” she says.

Christine is very aware of how lucky she is and knows there are others who do not have her opportunities “I was watching a story on the news about young people with disabilities in nursing homes. I wish that everyone in my position could get the chance to move away from nursing homes like I did. That they would get to live in a younger community. To me a nursing home is like a jail without any bars on the window.”

Shortly after she moved in, Christine had to go back to the nursing home because of an issue with her wheelchair. “That was very hard. I cried when I went back.” Christine was there for another month until Irish Wheelchair Association staff fought to get Christine back to her home and she is waiting for her new motorised chair.  “I will never go back there again, never,” she says.

The contrast between Christine’s life a year ago and today is very obvious. Today she feels more hopeful for the future and is busy making plans.

These days Christine is enjoying cooking and rebuilding her life. She is looking forward to working on her garden when the weather improves, and she has her new chair. Christine is also looking forward to getting a dog from the rescue shelter. “All my life I have had dogs and eight years without a dog was very tough. I am a dog person. When I meet a person with a dog, I say hello to the dog first,” Christine jokes.

Whatever amount you are kindly able to donate is deeply needed.

Your gift helps the trojan efforts of our frontline support staff on the ground and in our community centres. You will be helping our work to advocate for changes in policies that affect people with disabilities.

Your deep concern and understanding enables us to ensure our communities are a better place for all as we open our doors again and let the joy, life and fun back in after a very tough year. Thank you.