Julie, 44, has Down’s syndrome and lives in a Shared Lives arrangement with Pauline and Joe from Lancashire. In her own words, Pauline talks about Julie’s dramatic weight loss.
“Julie came to live with me 6 years ago and she was overweight, a size 20+, she is 4ft 9’ and is now a slim size 12. Her mother, who has since died, used to give Julie finger foods and would put a towel around her neck, then Julie would go to her room every night at 6.30pm and she wouldn’t let her mum in the room. She now feels like this is her home, so she has come a long way and I also feel that she was in day services and I think they held her back. They kept her using Makaton sign language and they said she would fall over all the time and I noticed it was because she had ill-fitting shoes on, so I got her shoes like trainers with Velcro and one thing and another and started getting her a bit more modern in the way she dressed and just spent more time on her. I felt like people didn’t talk to her properly. So I sat her down and said ‘Right, do you want to be treated like a little girl or a woman?’ And it was one of the first times she spoke and she said ‘woman’ and I said ‘right, well, here goes’ and that was it! I didn’t talk to her like a child and started to ask her questions instead of just telling her what to do; like ‘what shoes would you like to wear today?’ and gave her choices instead.
Then we had a talk with her and got the learning disability team out – the health team, to talk to her about healthy food and slowly, it was a long drawn out process, we got her onto healthy eating and fruit juices etc., and not bingeing on party food and sausage rolls and pies. But we noticed at times little packet of crisps and biscuits and things would go missing, but I didn’t mind at the time because it was something she had to do, she obviously did that when she was at home but what I did was I made sure there weren’t lots and lots of packets of crisps lying around. I made sure she wasn’t eating too much junk food and that way she was able to do what she was used to doing and it is not called ‘pinching things’ it’s called ‘Julie’s way of being’. So everyone who comes to you, you have to see what they are used to doing and you have to understand their ways. So Julie really started developing once she had built up a bond and she could trust me.
She loves herself now, she loves having her hair done – she has this lovely inverted bob, before they used to have her hair in rollers and she looked a lot older, you wouldn’t recognise her from old photographs. She likes herself, she likes who she is. I don’t think she liked herself before – she never looked at herself before.”