Ben's Story

Headshot of Bethany Kings - Manager at HammondCare DarlinghurstWhen HammondCare employee Bethany Kings accepted a short-term placement as Manager at HammondCare Darlinghurst, little did she know that her creative approaches to encouraging engagement between care workers and residents would result in life-changing breakthroughs – especially for one Indigenous man, *Ben.

Ben’s daily life pre-Darlinghurst was mostly spent on the streets. He had significant behavioural and health issues that were periodically addressed by local service providers, but continuum of care was elusive.

When Bethany first met Ben, it was obvious to her that he was not completely comfortable at the Darlinghurst home. Since arriving a year earlier, Ben’s preference was still to gravitate to familiar places and people, which saw him spending large chunks of his day out in the community. He’d leave before breakfast and often return well into the evening.

At Darlinghurst, staff place significant importance on understanding the need to be flexible with residents’ choices and creative about how to care for people.

Bethany knew that she and the Darlinghurst team needed to focus on creating an environment where Ben felt safe and wanted to stay – an environment built on trust so that helping with his personal care needs would become possible. It was critical that they really understood his motivations and considered where they could make adjustments to best support him and help him feel more comfortable within the residence.

An inspirational conversation with another local service provider where Ben was a regular visitor, revealed that "he didn’t feel like he knew anyone at the Darlinghurst residence".

It was clear to Bethany that to build a deeper connection with Ben, the whole team needed to engage him more intentionally. They started to focus their conversations. Initially, through greetings and simple questions – "have you had breakfast; will you be back for lunch?", slowly Ben started returning for lunch and the conversations increased. Soon, talk of long overdue haircuts and podiatry appointments came more easily.

Bethany remembers how pleased she was when Ben asked what time the hairdresser was coming.

“His deliberate effort to get back for his appointment meant so much; seeing him stay at home for the remainder of the whole day was inspiring," said Bethany. "This remarkable change in Ben’s demeanour and knowing he was feeling much more comfortable was mind blowing."

Map of Australia highlighting Indigenous communities on the wall of HammondCare DarlinghurstHaving grown up with an Indigenous uncle, Bethany was comfortable starting conversations with Ben about his Indigenous heritage. She asked about his totem and his country, which led to an idea about buying a map that illustrated language and nation groups of Indigenous Australia.

“When I told Ben the map had arrived, he was excited and enthusiastically said "go get it!"," said Bethany. "His interest and desire for something specific was a tremendous indication of a positive change and something I’m intensely proud of witnessing in him.

“In one of our longest conversations, he talked about all the different areas on the map, where he had been, where his family had been, where his daughters were living, what language people spoke and interesting tribal rituals.

“When Ben said, ‘I can go get this other person and she can do a country dance if you want, I’ll go get her’, I was overwhelmed." Bethany explained that through this truly spontaneous reaction, Ben was extending beyond HammondCare to include other areas of his life – demonstrating a huge step forward in how he was now feeling about Darlinghurst as his home.

Installing the map in Ben’s room has helped give a sense of meaning to his space – a safe place for him to protect. In addition to supporting Ben, Bethany thought having the map would also be a great way to help staff at HammondCare Darlinghurst – many whose first language isn’t English – understand Ben’s rich history and appreciate his belonging to his Indigenous country.

The map has pride of place in his room, and stimulates interest and conversation with staff and other residents. This simple gesture has made a significant difference and has created a dynamic change in the residence.

“It was really special for me to work with the Darlinghurst team at getting alongside residents like Ben; to understand who they are, why they are there and what they want to do. To think and work creatively with the staff about what we needed to do to support Ben and then see success out of that was incredibly rewarding."

Through such intentional engagement, staff at HammondCare Darlinghurst have greatly impacted Ben’s health and wellbeing. Chronic wounds that the specialist said would never heal, have healed. The advances made at HammondCare in managing his treatment, care and support are commended.

Gaining a deeper appreciation of Ben’s sense of self has prompted opportunities to reach into yet unknown and untouched spaces of his life. Working slowly and purposefully with Ben as he continues to live more comfortably in his home, we hope to expand and encourage more meaningful connections with other aspects of his world.



*Name changed for privacy