Alison offers special care

Alison Duke and the residents spend each working day together at the new McAuley House in Footscray. Turning up at their house every work day, Alison can’t help but become immersed in their lives. That’s part of the appeal of nursing with the RDNS Homeless Person Program and being based at McAuley House. Alison is one of the first people the women see when they come to McAuley House and she helps with their physical and mental health care for the duration of their time at the house.

With 30 years of nursing behind her Alison is equipped for anything and being based at McAuley House for the past 31/2 years she has been exposed to a range of physical and mental health issues.

“One of the things I love about working here as part of the program is that I have the autonomy to do what is necessary to meet the women’s health needs. Importantly, I have the opportunity to develop relationships with the women, to find out what is happening to them and the flexibility to respond,” Alison said.

As well as seeing the McAuley House Women face-to-face, she also does outreach work, visiting women who once lived at the house, but who have moved into private accommodation or transitional housing. This sometimes involves helping former residents get into an aged care facility. She also runs regular talks at McAuley House covering health issues the women will almost certainly have to manage. Three times a month Alison leads a walking group around the area. The group doesn’t break a sweat, but they do get to socialize and discover the local area.

Most of the women at McAuley House come to the clinic for the first time with a range of health issues that may have been ignored or tolerated for years. The gaps in the woman’s health care are identified and Alison then supports them as they are linked in with a range of other services such as doctors, dentists, hearing specialists, optometrists, podiatrists and mental health services. She tries to go with the women for the first couple of appointments to advocate for them and ensure their issues are examined thoroughly.

In the clinic Alison provides a lot of services such as health education, wound care, regular monitoring of health conditions, particularly mental health issues which affect many of the women who come to the house.

“Many of the women who come to McAuley House have fallen through the gap for a lot of reasons and so health issues have been missed and there’s often catching up to be done,” Alison said. “That’s also why the monthly health talks are important because I provide the women with information they can take with them. We cover things like nutrition, continence, QUIT smoking, and lots of other things.”

“Some of the women have chronic health problems and we can’t make a huge difference for some. We do the best we can for the time the women are here. That’s the privilege of working here. I get to know women quite closely and work with them to identify and treat health issues. Most of the women, through no fault of their own have not been given the opportunities many of us have. This job gives me the chance to support the women using the skills I have. It really is a privilege.”