A shopping trip – just one part of Shared Lives
“It is a wonderful service and without this service I don’t know where I would have ended up. It’s more like going out with a friend then receiving a service and it gives me something to look forward to each week.”
Betty, Shared Lives user
Shared Lives is an alternative to traditional residential respite and day services. It is used by people who have a wide range of assessed care needs such as older people, adults with dementia, or a learning, physical or sensory disability.
There are already 12,000 Shared Lives carers in the UK, recruited, trained and approved by 150 local schemes, which are regulated by the government’s social care inspectors.
Betty, a Shared Lives user, tells us more.
Betty, who is 88, was referred to the Leeds Shared Lives scheme by her social worker after being diagnosed with depression. Betty cares for her husband who has dementia and the social worker referred her so that she could have some respite from her caring responsibilities for her husband and to build up her self-esteem and confidence.
“It gives me some “me time” away from caring for my husband, my confidence has grown and my outlook is more positive. I have also gained a good friend with Sheila, my short break carer.
My husband also receives respite care through the service which means that I am able to attend hospital appointments knowing that my husband is being well cared for.”
67 year old Sheila has been an approved carer for 26 years. She first came across Shared Lives through an advert in the local paper.
“I thought that is something I could do, I have the time and a spare bedroom. My older children had left home to go to university, and I had one child at home, so I had a spare bedroom and it would fit into my family life. It was also something I was interested in. It felt like a jigsaw, everything fitting together.
As a Shared Lives carer I provide day support and respite care to four people. It is very rewarding being a carer.
Shared Lives is a very good scheme which provides a lot of support to vulnerable people, it’s a shame not more people know about it. The only down side to the scheme is it hasn’t being used more for emergency placements i.e. planned discharges from hospitals as carers and service users are very carefully matched.”
Another enthusiastic Shared Lives scheme user is Yvonne, pictured below with her Shared Lives carer Lucy.
Yvonne is 54 years old and lives alone in a flat with support from staff.
She says “I heard about Shared Lives from my Support Manager, she suggested it might be a good idea to look for a carer to support me to do things and gain more confidence in myself.
When I first met Lucy and when I got to know her better, I thought about some of the things I’d always wanted to do but had never tried, such as sewing, tennis, going to the gym and horse riding.
I have now done all these things and I even go out on Thursday night to a sewing/craft class on my own. I would never have done this before and didn’t ever go out at night.
I look forward to Lucy coming and sometimes think of what I want to do the night before. I feel excited to see her. She is a good friend.
I enjoy seeing all Lucy’s family, including her grandchildren and have just had a photograph taken holding her new grand-daughter when she was only two days old. I also love Lucy’s son’s dog, who is really fussy.
I’m looking forward to going Christmas shopping with Lucy and thinking about buying presents”
57 year old Lucy has worked with Shared Lives for almost 3 years. She supports people on both day support and short breaks, alongside her husband Andy, who is also approved with the scheme.
Lucy says “I heard about Shared Lives by reading a leaflet and really wanted to become involved. I felt that mine and Andy’s full time work would put us both in good-stead and give us the confidence to support people on a one to one basis.” Lucy is a passenger assistant with the local authority passenger transport and Andy works in a local prison.
I enjoy being a Shared Lives Carer and love sharing my time and skills with Yvonne and others. Yvonne has wanted to try out lots of new things and I have been able to help her to achieve a lot, which I know has really developed her personal confidence and self-esteem. It is really good to hear others comment on how Yvonne has changed and become much more her own person.
I also enjoy working alongside Yvonne’s other support workers and have a good relationship with them – we all work together.”
Leeds Shared Lives carers are recruited from a variety of age groups and backgrounds reflecting the population of Leeds. All are carefully selected, trained and fully checked. They are supported by the Shared Lives scheme, which has to be registered with the government’s care regulator, the Care Quality Commission.
The careful matching between Shared Lives carer and the person receiving a service is essential to ensure flexible support is provided based on the individual’s needs. The type of break can be overnight, weekends, part week or longer and day support can be up to 7 hours. The short break takes place in the Shared Lives Carer’s home and is used as a base for day support. Another service provided by the Leeds Shared Lives Scheme is the Outreach Service where outreach workers can support a customer in their own home to provide respite during the day or at night, to give the family carer a chance to catch up with their daily routines or sleep.
Many people who have used the Scheme have come to view the Shared Lives carer as a friend and have built a relationship over years where a reciprocal benefit between Shared Lives carer and the customer is experienced. They share in each other’s family life and community and the bond can be strong and extends for years.
Shared Lives carers are paid a modest amount to cover some of their time and expenses but by the nature of sharing in family life, their commitment to the person goes beyond monetary reward. Traditional forms of care for adults can be constrained by keeping clear professional boundaries around the ‘care giver/customer’ relationship. However, in Shared Lives, although carers retain a professional approach, the benefits are that relationships are formed and the outcome is that they share in ordinary family life.
If you are interested in joining Shared Lives a a volunteer carer and would like to benefit from the scheme more information is available here.