Neale Radley speaks at Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK
Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

NEALE Radley has nicknamed his nursing home room "cell 14" because it has a door handle which he cannot use.

"I feel like a prisoner," he told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety as he shared his experiences on Tuesday.

Mr Radley became quadriplegic in 2014 when he dived into shallow water and broke his neck.

The 52-year-old gave his testimony in the hope it could stop even one younger person going into a nursing home.

"Aged care will never be an appropriate place for young people to live," Mr Radley said.

He has been forced into the aged care system because nothing more appropriate is available, but he wants specialist disability accommodation in Bendigo - with automatic doors.

Right now, Mr Radley is living 150 kilometres away in the only place available to him.

The aged care facility's outside doors are kept locked and when his bedroom door is shut he cannot open it on his own.

The former truck driver loved his independence and the outdoors before the accident.

"I enjoyed camping, fishing, sport, being fit and meeting up with friends on the weekends," Mr Radley said.

Now, he spends most of his time on a computer. Otherwise he would sit in his room all day doing nothing.

It had been hard to get close to other residents of the facility.

"The people who I have liked, admired and gotten close to while I've lived in here have all since died. I've had to start distancing myself from people so I don't have to deal with their deaths," Mr Radley said.

"Being in a place where people are constantly dying is not right for young people. I feel isolated and alone."

There had also been times when he did not want to see friends.

"Before my accident I was a social person... then I didn't get to be social anymore. I didn't want my friends to come and see me here," Mr Radley said.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is expediting access to specialist disability accommodation funding for younger people living in aged care facilities, according to its latest quarterly report.

There is a historic shortage of appropriate homes for people with very high needs, a spokesperson for the National Disability Administration told the Bendigo Advertiser.

That was why it had provided more than 13,000 NDIS participants with funding to build or renovate homes so far.

The demand for specialist housing is strong in central Victoria, according to Helen Wemyss.

She and her daughter Susan - who requires 24-hour care - are watching proposals for several new Bendigo specialist disability accommodation builds closely.

They expect new developments to be snapped up quickly.

"The need here is great - and getting greater," Helen said.

Susan and Helen are still waiting to see if they qualify for specialist disability accommodation funding.

Without it, the pair might be forced to move down to the coast to be closer to other family members and to look for housing that may not suit Susan's need.

Mr Radley has the NDIS money locked in, but he told the royal commission he is yet to find the home.

It took "so much work" for his NDIS co-ordinator to make sure the application had everything it needed, plus a six- or eight-month wait to see if it had been successful.

"A few places did become available in Bendigo but I could not apply because I did not have the approval yet," Mr Radley said.

"It's hard not knowing where or when accommodation will become available so I think I will just have to take everything that comes up, even if I know it still has to be built.

Royal commissioner Lynette Briggs said it was distressing to hear how long it had taken Mr Radley to get his application into the right form.

"Yesterday (Monday) we heard a little bit about whether or not the system can provide for people who live in rural areas," she said.

"It disturbs me that it's hard for people such as yourself to get the accommodation and supports you need, at least at this stage."

Mr Radley got his funding in March, about the time that the National Disability Insurance Administration began expediting the process for younger people in aged care.

Getting specialist disability accommodation would give Mr Radley a "light at the end of the tunnel", he said.

"I want to be able to do a TAFE course, go down the street, enjoy myself and get around on my own.

"As a quadriplegic, being independent means a lot to me and being able to do even a few things without needing help - or to ask someone for it - would mean a lot.

"I am hopeful I will get my life back."