Ever wondered what life is like for a regional therapist? Our therapists in Western Australia provide a service to clients across the whole State, an area of more than 2.5 million square kilometres. They’re committed to providing support to people who are blind or who have limited vision.
Occupational Therapist Jack Beer is our visiting regional therapist to Geraldton. He knows the town very well as he used to live there. Now his dad and sister have moved there, his trips to Geraldton means he can combine work while catching up with family members at the same time.
Working among the regional community
Jack enjoys these trips as it’s a chance to meet people who live in different communities, and to hear their stories and learn about their life. The professional relationships he forms are strong because it’s a fairly small, close-knit environment.
A lover of the outdoors, when Jack gets any spare time, he likes to explore the bush and there’s plenty of it around Geraldton. Jack’s work is highly valued within the local community and he feels greatly appreciated.
To find out more about the regional services we provide, visit our Therapy for Adults and discover how we can help you.
Here’s Jack’s diary of his latest four-day trip.
I get up early and drive 400 kilometres to Geraldton. After the long journey, it’s time to visit my first client. I am helping her to use an optical character reader (OCR) on her desktop video magnifier. This piece of technology will capture and scan documents which can then be read out from text to speech.
The client, an elderly lady, is very grateful for my assistance and I check into my hotel which overlooks the beach.
After breakfast, I head off to the local shops to buy coffee and biscuits for the Geraldton Support Group. It’s the first time the group have gathered together since COVID and everyone’s pleased to meet each other. It’s a great opportunity for people to share ideas and their personal stories on coping with vision loss.
One of our longest serving volunteers is Betty. She’s been involved with this group for 12 years. She initially joined because her auntie had a vision impairment and she wanted to help others. The people at the group, who all have low sight or are blind, tell me how much they enjoy the social aspect of the group. It’s like being among friends, I have gotten to know everyone very well and it’s good to catch up on all the news. It’s times like this, when I see everyone enjoying themselves, that I really appreciate my role as a regional therapist.
I head back to the hotel as a client has cancelled. This free time is spent with catching up on some paperwork. My appointment in the afternoon is with a man who wants some training on his portable video magnifier and some lighting recommendations for his kitchen. He’s grateful for my guidance.
Then it’s back home to respond to emails. I don’t think many people realise the amount of administration we do relating to each client, but all our appointments need to be recorded.
I prepare for the day ahead while enjoying breakfast at a local cafe. My first client of the day is Gail, originally from New Zealand, she came to Australia in 1967 for a sea change and never left.
At 78-years-old Gail wants to live independently at her retirement unit. She has macular degeneration, so her vision loss has been gradual. Now legally blind, I’m undertaking an assessment to see how technology can assist her day-to-day. I talk about video magnifiers, computers and show her an iPad. I demonstrate what’s available and she tries some of it out.
Then it’s off to another client, 78-year-old Janice who wants recommendations on optical magnifiers and home modifications. She lives with her husband and dog.
Janice has macular degeneration, so her sight loss has happened over time. She tells me about her previous work with the indigenous community.
She’s been a liaison officer in the courts and a teacher of life skills working with aboriginal people.
My third client of the day, Kaye, who’s 79, lives on a small farm. She suffers from visual field loss due to a retinal tranmsient ischemic attack which is like a mini stroke.
Married for 58 years, Kaye tells me how she met her husband Des at a dance in Kalgoorlie. Des is a great support to Kaye as she’s adjusting to her lack of vision.
It’s been a busy day, but in the evening I still have some paperwork to complete when back at the hotel.
My last day as a regional therapist in Geraldton. I have breakfast and check out of the hotel and it’s off to see Marianne. I enjoy visiting Marianne’s house as she’s a very creative individual. She had a stroke which left her with vision loss, but she’s kept up with her arts and crafts.
At 71-years-old she continues to teach art in remote communities and puts the strategies she’s learned form her occupational therapy sessions into practise. She wants some recommendations around video magnifiers and would like to install tactile markers on her kitchen appliances.
Before I head home, I go back to see Betty. She’s the long serving volunteer who’s been involved with the Geraldton Support Group. Betty’s been unwell recently, so I have a little present, some flowers and a framed photograph we took at the Support Group. This is to thank her for her longstanding involvement over the years. Then it’s back in the car and the lengthy ride home. The day doesn’t end there. When I’m home in Perth I complete some final administration duties. It’s very varied and busy but I can honestly say that life as a regional therapist is incredibly rewarding.