Citizen Advocacy Stories

Bertram and Bruce

Bertram was living in a nursing home, isolated and without anyone in his life other than paid staff. Bertram was a quiet, delightful gentleman in his early 60s when we met him. He had a mild intellectual disability, was shy, and hesitant to respond to anyone he did not know. Therefore, his life was confined to primarily his room in the nursing home, and to the ever-changing paid staff.

Whenever he left his room, Bertram would take his worldly possessions in one small school-size case. One wonders at the need to keep secure, all he owned.

Staff of the Citizen Advocacy office met with Bertram several times to determine his overriding needs, in preparation for the recruitment of a suitable citizen advocate to respond accordingly.

Bruce was a person known to one staff member for many years through church. He was a man of good character and principle and, as the managing director of a national printing company, was able to communicate skilfully. These were the attributes required to respond to the identified needs in Bertram’s life.

Bruce’s friendly and gentle ways gradually won the friendship and trust of Bertram and occasionally they would go out for a coffee – Bertram always taking his case of possessions.

Bruce’s skill of negotiation and importance in Bertram’s life, soon won recognition by the Nursing Home staff where Bertram lived. This was a very important aspect given Bertram’s declining health and isolation.

Each time Bertram was sent to hospital by ambulance, the staff would advise Bruce, who would leave his office and be at the hospital in time for Bertram’s arrival. On one particular occasion, Bruce overheard derogatory comments about the worth of treating Bertram. Bruce cornered the medical staff and stated ‘that this gentleman was to receive the same treatment as if he was their father’. Bertram recovered and returned to the nursing home.

Bruce saved and changed Bertram’s life. Bertram had a friend and confidante in Bruce who safeguarded his interests, and was not paid to do so. Bruce ensured his Will was in order and upon his death in his room at the nursing home, Bruce arranged, and attended his funeral.

Written by the co-ordinator of the Citizen Advocacy Eastern Suburbs office prior to its funding being withdrawn by the Federal Government in 2004.

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