Shared Lives is a little known, but important, alternative to traditional residential respite and day services for people in need of support. The scheme offers personalised, quality care where carers share their lives and their homes with those they support. The Leeds Shared Lives scheme helps family carers who take on the often emotionally and physically draining care of a loved one by enabling them to have a break. They do this by providing day support and short breaks to service users. They can support adults with a wide range of care needs such as older people, adults with dementia, or learning, physical, or sensory difficulties. What is a Shared Lives carer’s day like? Meet Lynn, a Shared Lives carer and Christine, who shares her life with Lynn.
When I met Lynn today it was dull, chilly and raining hard, however, inside the house, once the kettle was on, it was cosy and warm. As I walked through into the lounge I was given a big hug from Christine, who was staying with Lynn, and her husband David, for her respite. Christine had been the very first person ever to stay with them back in 2008 when they were first approved by the scheme.
Lynn works closely with David and between them they offer respite to three people throughout the year (a total of 120 nights) and three days every week (day support), for three different people, (a total of 20 hours per week). Lynn says that being a Shared Lives carer means she can help people who need some kind of support and give something back. On a practical level, they also had a spare room and wanted to put it to good use in a very positive way.
Lynn describes what is required of someone who wants to become a Shared Lives Carer. “A Shared Lives carer needs to be patient, willing to listen, have a sense of humour, flexible, organised but also willing to try new things.”
I know that Lynn and David do more than it says on the tin and generously share their lives with all their guests. Lynn tells me about the time one of her young male guests spent time doing a jigsaw with her three year old grand-daughter and how much both of them got from doing this in a loving, safe family environment.
Christine says “I enjoy being able to spend time with Lynne’s grown-up daughter, who stayed overnight earlier in the year. I’ve also been able to meet some of Lynne and David’s friends.” She recently joined them all for a fish and chip supper at a local restaurant.
Lynn feels being a Shared Lives carer offers her the flexibility to work from home, lots of variety and allows her to be creative. “I’ve learnt new things myself and widened my experiences. Watching the people I support develop their own skills and interests and grow in confidence gives me real job satisfaction.”
Lynn has also been on several training courses since she joined the team and continues to develop her knowledge and skills by undertaking at least two courses, such as First Aid, Medication and Adult Safeguarding, each year. If Lynn has a problem with something she is able to rely on her husband David as he is also approved with the scheme, her social worker at Shared Lives, and family carers.
Providing day support is an important part of Lynn’s week and she has found that keeping an on-going record of all the activities they do together, such as keeping copies of venue tickets, photos and writing small articles about how they felt and what was enjoyed the most in scrapbooks and notebooks, which can also be shared with family carers, is a fun way to look back. Lynn also enjoys sewing cross stitch and when I arrived today there was a table full of different coloured cottons and wool which Christine had used to choose her own colour ready to begin her own work.
Scrapbooks and notebooks help the people Lynn supports to record the events of the day and share their experiences with their own friends and family.
A big ‘thumbs up’ from Christine shows how she feels about having her respite with Lynn and David. In addition, Christine says that she feels ‘very happy’ when she sees Lynn and David and there is a real sense of companionship as she is supported to do the things she enjoys in an ordinary, happy family home.
Can you provide the time, skills and a home environment where you could provide short breaks or day support for adults with a diverse range of care needs?
Shared Lives Carers are extraordinary people who live ordinary lives and come from many different backgrounds. Shared Lives carers are fully assessed and police checked before being approved. They are provided with training and supervised by a scheme worker. If you want to find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0113 247 8658.