WHAT began as a perplexing inability to hold his spoon one morning has wreaked havoc on Robert Peters's life.
Multiple sclerosis has had such a devastating effect on his body that he must move out of home, leaving behind his wife of 36 years, Nonja.
"I don't want to go, no bloody way," is how Mr Peters, 59, describes the prospect of living in an aged-care home in Nedlands, where his name is at the top of the waiting list.
Mr Peters has spent most of the past month in hospital after his wife conceded she had lost the battle to be both carer and breadwinner. Their predicament is increasingly common, according to lobby group Disability Coalition, which estimates the number of West Australians who fail to get full-time home care will double to 700 in five years.
Nonja Peters, director of the migrant research unit at Curtin University, said being unable to care for her husband had caused her terrible angst and guilt.
Dr Peters struggled with the physical demands of hoisting her husband in and out of his wheelchair and with the constant emotional drain of knowing he was frequently home alone.
She said she could "wallpaper the house" with brochures from different agencies offering help. But, ultimately, the full-time care he needed was not available.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2002 identified a "backlog" of 12,500 disabled Australians who could not get accommodation support. This year in Western Australia, 342 applications were made to the Disability Services Commission for full-time accommodation support. Fewer than a third succeeded.
The dire cases that missed out included people in their 80s acting as full-time carers to adult children or spouses, according to Disability Coalition chairman Ian Taylor.
A former health and disability services minister in a West Australian Labor government, Mr Taylor said extra state government funding of $10million a year would ensure that couples such as the Peters stayed together.
The Disability Services Commission will spend $3.8million on full-time accommodation support this year, up from $2.7million last year.
Disability Services Minister Sheila McHale told The Australian that
24-hour care in people's homes was prohibitively expensive.
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