Disabled man's life in nursing home 'cell'

Megan Neil
Neale Radley says the prospect of life outside a nursing home is a "light at the end of the tunnel"

Once an active person who hated being confined within four walls, 52-year-old Neale Radley now feels like a prisoner in "cell 14" of a nursing home.

The former truck driver loved the outdoors - camping, fishing, sport and being fit - and catching up with friends.

One mistake took all that away when Mr Radley dived off a houseboat into a river, but hit a sandbar, the 2014 accident leaving him a quadriplegic.

"Every day I am reminded of how different my life is now compared to before the accident," Mr Radley told the aged care royal commission on Tuesday.

"My accident was a mistake that I have to deal with for the rest of my life.

"My accident has forced me to learn how to live again."

Mr Radley has lived in a residential aged care facility in regional Victoria for four years, 150 kilometres away from his parents.

He feels isolated and alone, as older residents around him die.

"I have nicknamed my room 'cell 14' because I don't have the freedom to get out.

"I feel like a prisoner."

It took more than six months for Mr Radley to be approved for specialist disability accommodation in the community, through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

He is now waiting for a place to become available near his parents and the services, hospital and support he needs to live a happy life.

"Even if I have to wait for it to be built, knowing I have a place would at least give me direction and make me feel like there was light at the end of the tunnel."

In contrast, Robyn Spicer's physically and intellectually disabled daughter Jessie loves living in a residential aged care facility in central Victoria.

The 37-year-old moved there in 2013, after it became too hard to care for her at home.

A real people person despite being unable to speak, Jessie is thriving.

Jessie's life's work, her family says, is to make people happy.

"Jessie has an extremely busy, full life," her mum said.

"She's go, go, go all the time and that's what she loves."

Ms Spicer said she wanted to share Jessie's story with the royal commission to balance out the depressing and awful stories coming out of aged care.

"I'm not saying for one minute there are lots of people in aged care who really shouldn't be there and there are some facilities that are just appalling.

"But I'm saying people for whom it is a great choice, I don't think there should be any stigma about it."