When John and Paul were toddlers, their parents Greg and Alison took them to Sylvanvale’s respite at ‘Rainbow Lodge’ in the Blue Mountains. It was to be the brothers’ first time staying there. The moment the family arrived, the boys struck a connection with the staff member who greeted them. Greg and Alison left feeling upbeat.
After just ten minutes, when they were halfway down the mountains, they decided they couldn’t leave their precious children behind. They turned around and went back.
As they returned, the staff member was waiting for them outside the building. “I knew you’d be back,” she said. She encouraged them on their way again, without their boys. They did so, but were still feeling anxious.
John and Paul were born two years apart in the 1960s. While both have a disability, each has differing support needs which would ultimately keep them from living together for most of their lives.
As children, the brothers lived at home, attending Sylvanvale School. However, John wasn’t achieving his learning potential because he was so focused on making sure Paul was okay. On the recommendation of the Department of Education, John was sent to a special school in Arncliffe, while still living at home.
Paul, on the other hand, moved out of the family home. With Alison suffering from exhaustion and due to the nature of Paul’s disability, the department advised that it would be best if he lived in a specialised children’s home.
Paul was happy there. He made friends and still visited the family home most weekends. Every so often, the family even managed to go on three-day getaways together.
John also eventually moved away from home, at age 39.
The boys’ different circumstances and support needs meant that living together wasn’t an option. There simply wasn’t suitable accommodation available.
In 2021, Sylvanvale approached Greg and Alison, asking if they would like the brothers to move into a villa together. One was available in the organisation’s new, state-of-the-art accommodation in Bangor. The property was unique, as it was designed and built to cater to a diverse range of support needs. It was the first time as adults that the brothers had the option of living together.
It was not an easy decision for Greg and Alison however.
“We ummed and ahhed about moving Paul. He was in a house with friends. They’d all lived together for 30 years and had become family. We were very hesitant about moving him as we didn’t know how he’d go,” says Greg.
The parents eventually decided that moving the brothers in together would be the right decision.
“We always wanted the boys to be together and our whole lives we have been preparing for us not being here anymore. We’re getting them ready for the future. We love them dearly and would do anything for them,” says Greg.
Alison agrees. “We’re getting older, so I said to Greg it would be good if they’re both together,” she says.
But while John settled in easily, it was harder for Paul. Paul often suffers from anxiety and was anxious about being somewhere new.
“Paul was very frightened and unsure when he moved into his new home. He doesn’t like change,” says Greg.
Twelve months on, Paul feels settled. He’s become very laid back in all aspects of his life, even at the Sylvanvale Community Hub that he attends each week.
Greg and Alison put it down to the staff and the environment the home provides.
“Paul has lost the anxiety he had. He’s just so relaxed. It’s the staff, the atmosphere of the house, Katina’s management, and it’s not crowded,” says Greg.
Both brothers are delighted with their home and enjoy being together.
“They love it. They absolutely love it. John even kicks us out if he doesn’t want us there anymore. Last time we visited, he gave Alison her handbag when he was ready for us to leave!” says Greg.
It’s been lifechanging for Greg and Alison too.
“We feel relief and so much more relaxed. It’s relief from knowing that everything’s going to be okay for the future,” says Alison.
With the brothers settled, Greg and Alison recently took a month-long holiday to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. It was the first holiday they’ve had where they were relaxed about their boys.
“The few times we’ve gone away on our own, we’ve waited for a call to tell us something was wrong. This time we weren’t on edge. It’s put a new outlook on our lives,” says Greg.
“We never gave up and it’s great to see the boys together, with John always helping his younger brother Paul,” he continues.
“It’s taken that worry away about what’s going to happen,” agrees Alison. “What we’ve hoped and planned for all these years has come to fruition.”
For the first time in their lives, Greg and Alison don’t feel anxious about leaving their precious sons behind.