A shared life is a healthier life

Over 200 Shared Lives carers took the time to tell us about the difference they make to people’s health, for a proposal we are developing to get Shared Lives established in the healthcare sector. 73% said they had received positive feedback from an NHS colleague about the difference their support was making to an individual’s health, such as:

  • The GP stated that my care was remarkable and hoped I would continue to support this person.
  • I offer respite care to someone with bi-polar disorder. The CPN noted that staying with me when she has been in a depressive state has meant not having more formal support from the mental health team.
  • He has been her dentist for 40 yrs and has never seen an improvement until she came to live in Shared Lives.
  • The Mental health nurse reported that the person concerned was a changed woman: more confident and happy. The nurse said that she thought it was wonderful how this lady was able to voice her own opinions as she had never done this previously.
  • The nurse said “it’s obvious he is confident and comfortable with me as they have not been able to do this procedure successfully before”. We are very proud of him and his progress.

Here are some of the most common reported health outcomes. I fond some of them jaw-dropping: The person adopting healthier lifestyles, including dozens of accounts of significant weight loss, managing diabetes and giving up smoking

  • I am helping someone go to the gym twice a week as she is very overweight. She went by herself for the first time yesterday
  • Took a very obese service user to Slimming World. Helped her with her diet, and she lost 6 stone while with us.
  • Diabetes controlled through diet rather than medication. Weight loss through exercise and healthy eating.
  • One lady has lost 5 stones in weight in 5 years. Her BMI is perfect and she has much more energy to enjoy things she loves doing like dancing. One man has been supported with physiotherapy and orthotic shoes to help with pain management and posture, he used a wheelchair to visit shops. He does not need to use a wheelchair any more.
  • Both our long term residents have now been discharged from Asthma clinics and have lost 4 and a half stone between them
  • I helped achieve his aim of giving up smoking after he had smoked for 40 years

Tackling misdiagnoses and making reductions in unnecessary medications

  • When S came to us she was on a lot of medication. I asked the doctor if we could review it and she came off 3 different medications and she is much more awake.
  • She had been on epilepsy medication for 30 years before she came to us for no obvious reason. She has no seizures.
  • They thought she was deaf until I investigated further and found she hadn’t had her ears syringed for over 5yrs. Easily sorted out by visit to Practice nurse at GP and her hearing is fine now.
  • This person was in a wheelchair due to being over-medicated, because his doctors thought he was very severely epileptic, and subsequently massively over-medicated. We found out that most of his “seizures” were behavioural, and they gradually reduced his epilepsy meds. From having around 4 “seizures” per day, he hasn’t had any for 12 months. He now walks and attends college. The GP stated that this was directly attributable to care we had put in place.

Improved health and wellbeing leading to reduction in use of NHS services

  • The gentleman who is with us has now finished 6 monthly hospital visits and just sees the nurse once a year.
  • All of the people we support have been signed off from community support nursing because their conditions are being kept monitored and controlled while in our care.
  • Neither gentlemen have needed A&E whereas under their previous arrangement, they’d used it 4 times in 2yrs.
  • One gentleman was admitted to hospital about once a month, but not at all whilst living with us

Serious illnesses which had gone undiagnosed, including several instances of cancer, being diagnosed and treated

  • Alerted GP to early cancer symptoms
  • The cancer patient received treatment “just in time!”
  • One person had prostate cancer. We recognized the symptoms (that he must have had prior to moving in with us!) we supported him throughout all his treatment and getting to and from hospital.

Improved mental health and self-esteem reducing the need for mental health services or medication

  • One service user practiced unsafe sex for many years to an extent that she had a regular monthly appointment time at the local sexual health clinic. After discussing at length and researching different diseases and their effect on human health, the service user has had a steady partner for years and has needed no medical intervention.
  • Providing secure, peaceful home environment has enabled service users to gain and maintain healthier mental health with less anxiety, anger and depression.
  • Because they have a busy and enjoyable life their medication has been reduced.

The Shared Lives carer and their family being with the individual in hospital and during treatment

  • When he spent time in hospital my husband stayed with him apart from the time he was asleep
  • I supported young lady when had scoliosis surgery. Over the 4 weeks I lodged in hospital to support her 24 hours. Staff said that they would have had a hard time doing their job without my being there to help and support her.
  • Accompanied client to Guys hospital for surgical procedure and was told by staff that without my help, knowledge and support they would never have been able to carry out the operation.
  • When B was hospitalised staff struggled to understand him and his ways and were grateful that we stayed whole time. When his Social Worker offered to stay to enable me to pop home for a bath, they had to ring, as they were struggling with our client’s behaviour.

Addressing health inequalities and inequality of access to health services Shared Lives carers who collectively support nearly 1,200 people said they had supported 48% of those people to access the NHS, reducing health inequalities for people with learning disabilities and other vulnerable people and ensuring earlier access to essential treatment. They also supported self-care:

  • Helping M who is Autistic access the doctor by writing down for him what he needs to say to the doctor so he can go in on his own.
  • I aided one lady to dress her own ulcers, rather than relying on the district nurse and GPs.
  • Because of their significant learning and communication needs these people would be unable to access the mainstream NHS services otherwise and there would be considerable distress and challenging behaviour.
  • I support someone who has learning disabilities and mental health issues by following programmes suggested by the specialists in the mental health/learning disability team, support in attending appointments and in taking medication.
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