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The Life of Brians

Written by Freya Griffin, Communications Partner with integratedliving

How social support and gardening helped Brian to reclaim his lifestyle after a difficult Parkinson’s diagnosis. 

Ask Brian about his life in the early years of his Parkinson’s diagnosis, and you’ll soon come to realise his remarkable lifestyle transformation. Diagnosed in 2017, Brian went from being an outgoing and jovial community member, heavily involved in horse racing and local Australian Rules Football, to adopting a more reclusive lifestyle.

“As an active person and well known in my community, I withdrew,” Brian said. “It changes your whole identity. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I suppose I developed a limited view of what was possible. 

“I had trouble walking. I was falling over a lot. The doctors didn’t think I’d survive it long. They said I had eight months to live,” Brian said.

Eventually, in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brian’s wife Ellen secured domestic assistance to help Brian with cooking and cleaning upkeep at home. 

“I was offered the extra bells and whistles at the time, you know. Services like gardening and social outings, but I was pretty resistant to it, thinking it was over the top,” Brian said. 
With careful encouragement by Brian’s Case Manager Katie, Brian became more open to the idea of gardening and social support as a way to improve his overall wellbeing. To his surprise, Brian’s assigned Support Worker is also called Brian. Katie says around town, the pair are affectionately known as ‘B1 and B2’. 

Support Worker Brian Hill assists Brian M with tending to his garden and enjoying social outings twice a week. Brian H travels from a neighbouring town and says although he has lived in the area for quite some time, Brian M knows the country backroads better than he does.

“He drives and I give directions on where to go as I used to love driving these roads. I love going driving and having a yarn. It makes me feel good. I pass on as much knowledge as I can to him. I used to do a lot of sleeping during the day, but I don’t anymore. I think that’s because I have this sense of purpose now. I’ve got things to do that get me going,” Brian said.

Six months since agreeing to additional services, Brian M says he feels much happier in his life since spending time in the garden and out in the community. The friendship with Brian H has become much more important than the domestic assistance now. 

“I’ve actually got someone else in to help me with cleaning and cooking, so Brian and I can simply enjoy each other’s company out and about,” said Brian M.  

The pair enjoy trips to a beautiful beach nearby, where Brian M can be near the water’s edge at the boat ramp, soaking up the coastal atmosphere. He says connecting with the outdoors again and enjoying regular laughs with Brian H has restored his sense of self since his diagnosis.  

“I’m more interested in my life again now,” Brian M said. “Brian and I teach each other a thing or two in the garden and I enjoy exploring. I know I’m lucky to have Ellen’s constant support. She looks after us both when Brian H comes to visit, just ask him about Ellen’s homemade scones,” he laughs. 
“We look after each other, and we’d never dream of leaving integratedliving now we have these services in place. I’d recommend considering additional services outside of simply domestic assistance, as the services that help you to get outside can be very liberating,” Brian said. 
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