We’re gathering stories which illustrate the diversity of people using and providing Shared Lives at the moment, and also making the case that Shared Lives could be much more widely used as home from hospital care. Sarah Havard, manager of Newham’s Shared Lives scheme, kindly provided two stories, which bring those strands of thinking together.
“I had an enquiry from a social worker in the hospital team, who had read an article about Shared Lives I put into the weekly adult social care bulletin. From making this contact we have now supported two individuals who had had strokes, and were well enough to no longer need hospital care, but their home situation meant that they were unable to return home at that point.
‘Brigita’ is an older lady from Eastern Europe, who had been living in unsuitable overcrowded shared accommodation, and had been working in hotels. After her stroke, Brigita was given an initial six week respite placement with us, with the idea that she would then be well enough to present as homeless. This was then extended to a three month placement. Every time I meet her I am moved by hearing her speak about how grateful she is to her Shared Lives family for the support and friendship they give her. For her, as an isolated woman in this country, who speaks very little English, I believe that it has been a really important part of her recovery, that she was able to live as part of a family, and not have to worry about anything but getting better.
‘Khalid’ is a younger man who has had his third stroke, and was unable to return to live in his own flat on his own. The social worker was keen that he didn’t have to go to a nursing home, at such a young age. We were able to match him with a Shared Lives family originally from the same city in Pakistan as his own family. This has been really helpful for his family, as this has been a difficult situation for them to come to terms with. Being able to talk to the Shared Lives carers in their own language, and feel that they are offering support so similar to that he would get if his family were able to support him, is invaluable. Also it has meant that he is able to maintain his previous social circle, with his friends visiting. He is keen to return home and live on his own again, and we are working towards this as a long-term goal.”
We’re really excited about developing Shared Lives as a form of home from hospital care, because as these stories illustrate, it’s possible to help people with the social aspects of getting back on your feet, as well as the practical ones. Regaining your social networks is something which other (more expensive) approaches usually don’t even try to tackle. Even better that Shared Lives schemes and carers can turn their community’s diversity into a strength, rather than seeing it as an extra layer of complexity.
If you are an NHS or council commissioner and want to think about the possibilities in your area, please get in touch with Anna McEwen, Development Director, anna@SharedLivesPlus.org.uk. If you are interested in developing Shared Lives for older people, please contact Sue Eley: susan@SharedLivesPlus.org.uk.