Rosalie and Rodney Foreman had been married for just over a decade when Rosalie suffered a stroke and was told she would never walk again. The life they had planned together seemed lost.
But with determination and perseverance, and some allies along the way, the couple have achieved what might have seemed impossible. Rather than bending their lives to fit into the aged care system, they have moulded and massaged the system into a form that suits them, enabling them to remain side by side, living and loving together, travelling with friends, and living as close as possible the lives they had dreamed about.
The couple appeared before the royal commission on Monday, sitting close together. They looked to each other often as they spoke, and, despite the hardships they revealed, it was clear the bond between them was still strong.
Rodney told the royal commission he wanted to share their story to show what was possible.
“We did something which doesn’t happen very often, we got Rosalie out of aged care,” he said. When COVID-19 began appearing in Australia, the couple made the decision to move Rosalie out of aged care and into Rodney’s nearby flat permanently.
Rodney hopes their story might provide some inspiration to others. “I’m not convinced that there couldn’t be more situations similar to ours,” he said.
It wasn’t always easy, and came at some financial cost to them, but it’s clear the couple are now happy and comfortable.
In a sign of just how far they have come, the couple appeared via a recorded video because they are travelling with friends to Port Lincoln this week.
Rosalie and Rodney have been married for 13 years. They were introduced by Rodney’s sister after Rodney separated from his wife, and Rosalie was widowed. They immediately got on “like a house on fire” and were soon married.
The couple lived all around Australia, first in Port Lincoln in South Australia, and then for eight years on a houseboat. They spent three years in a motorhome travelling around, and then went to run a caravan park in central Victoria.
But six weeks into the job, just over two years ago, Rosalie experienced a stroke, and the couple returned to live near friends and family in Mannum, back in South Australia.
Ms Foreman went straight into a nursing home, and Mr Foreman moved into an apartment in the same complex.
“I was able to visit her as often as I wanted, all day every day,” Mr Foreman told the royal commission.
At first, Rosalie was told she would never walk again and that her health would never improve.
But the steely couple joined forces with a like-minded physiotherapist, and together they set about achieving some short-term goals for Rosalie.
The girls included getting Rosalie to be able to walk again, for her to be able to spend some time with Rodney, for her to be able to live in the unit, and to be able to get in and out of a car.
All of these goals have now been achieved.
The physio was contracted to work at the facility on a maintenance basis, for 10 minutes per resident, up to four times a week.
The couple paid her for two extra sessions a week out of their own pocket and Rosalie had the sessions in Rodney’s apartment.
“Because the unit was basically within the perimeters of aged care, we could wheelchair Rosalie down to the unit, so that the physio wasn’t seen to be doing something that she should not be doing, or that Rosalie as a resident wasn’t getting more treatment than someone else,” Rodney explained.
The couple said it was a “miracle” Rosalie was able to walk again.
“The first time she actually walked, basically with just a quad stick, I was behind her with my phone and I videoed it and showed the physio and I’ve shown several other people, including a couple of friends in Victoria, and obviously family,” Rodney said.
“It was just a great day.”
“How did it feel, Rosalie?” counsel assisting the royal commission, Erin Hill, asked.
“Very good,” Rosalie replied, smiling.
When COVID-19 hit, the couple, who were already spending some nights together, decided to “bite the bullet” and bring Rosalie home full time. She’s been home for four-and-a-half months now.
“How does it feel to have Rosalie back at home with you?” Ms Hill asked.
“Great,” Rodney replied, as Rosalie laughed beside him.
“How do you feel, Rosalie?” Ms Hill enquired.
“Very happy,” came the reply.
Rosalie has three physio sessions a week, shower and dressing support three times a week, and podiatry every six weeks. A carer comes and sits with her while Rodney plays nine holes of golf with a group of friends.
“That helps me to not be in Rosalie’s hair 24/7,” Rodney said.
The couple appeared via recorded video before the royal commission because they were joining friends in Port Lincoln this week.
They are taking a carer with them to help, but the trip allows Rosalie a change of scene as she spends most of her time in the flat.
“We’re going with friends,” Mr Foreman said. “It’s just nice to spend some time away…
“It will be nice to go back to where we lived for a couple of years, and just experience the Eyre Peninsula again.”
Image: Royal Commission.