Michael Karitsis shares his story, how he works to maximise the NDIS’s potential for himself and what suggestions he has for others. For more of his story, visit OnSide’s Clicka profile, featuring a video about Michael’s NDIS journey.
For Michael Karitsis, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is nothing short of a blessing, changing his life in countless, untold ways.
He tells me this over the phone, while his support worker prepares his breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Despite the tinny phone connection, his passion for the NDIS is evident; after all, it’s a scheme that has helped him maintain independence and remain at home.
But Michael knows that it’s a scheme that also has the tendency to confuse, and with many unfortunate grey areas he wants to offer cautionary advice to those newly navigating the system.
He’s living with NDIS support and is doing his best to maximise its potential.
Accepting the change
Michael’s life abruptly changed when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2004, not long after jumping out of his truck and inexplicably falling over.
As a former kickboxer and trainer, Michael’s diagnosis was a shock, as he had to steadily accept that he would soon need to rely on others for his personal care.
But herein lies his first lesson of the NDIS, one that he had to embrace, changing his own mindset to accept.
“I’ve learnt not to be embarrassed,” he says. “That was a big thing for me, as I had to get over the fact someone was going to come and shower me, dress me, undress me, feed me. I could no longer drive or easily see the real world out there anymore.”
“I initially couldn’t accept it, but I realised I had to accept it. What changed was that I started to realise how important it was for me to have that support, if I wanted to not quit on life.”
Under the NDIS, Michael receives numerous supports, from support workers who assist him in showering, dressing and cooking, to cleaners and gardeners who help him ensure his place is tidy.
Without the introduction of the NDIS, Michael says that his life would look very different to what it does now.
“Without this support, I’d be an absolute mess, an absolute disaster. It would be so bad that I don’t think I’ll be able to live here.”
“Without the NDIS, I wouldn’t be here—I’d be in a nursing home somewhere.”
Making the system work
That’s not to say the NDIS doesn’t come with its fair share of frustrations, with long wait times and lack of information sometimes exacerbating the bureaucracy.
But Michael says that’s all part of the learning curve, encouraging new NDIS participants to find the right support network to help them navigate it.
“We have to learn to be patient when we encounter those frustrations. You need the right OT and the right people on your side to help set up the NDIS,” he says.
“It will happen, but patience is very important, and your coordinator and OT, if you have them, are a big part of that patience.”
According to Michael, once you surround yourself with that support network, it’s important to be vocal and unafraid to express what you believe you need.
“Don’t be afraid to say what you need and talk about the things that you need for you,” Michael said.
“I wish I knew that the more I spoke about what I need, the easier it would have been for me… there are people who do care and they’re here to help.”
“For someone becoming involved with the NDIS, with your Plan, try not to be overwhelmed with the support that you can get.”
“You can find support you don’t actually think you can get, like dressing, undressing and getting around the home.”
With this support, he stresses the need to gather evidence to support your request, such as OT reports. Baby steps towards NDIS success.
The power of affirmations
One of the greatest tools that Michael uses is the power of affirmations, something that he employs in life as well as the NDIS.
“Affirmations mean a lot to me – they change the way I think and give you a great attitude towards life again. Like, ‘The past has no power over you unless you let it.’
“They put your mind in a new place. As long as you deliver with your heart with what you’re saying, it will become and does become very powerful.”
“NDIS goals are affirmations in a way… If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
“If we change the way we look and feel about the NDIS and all the negative stuff, then things start to change.”
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