Sheik, Roumanah and Kirsty

Here’s a lovely story of inclusion, kindness and creativity from Hertfordshire Shared Lives as we continue to celebrate Shared Lives week.

Kirsty Stubbs moved in to live with Sheik and Roumanah Tafajoul’s family in February of this year. Kirsty has an acquired brain injury from an accident five years ago and had been in a Care Home ever since. Kerry Faulkner from Hertfordshire County Council Shared Lives writes about how they made the match made in the middle of the pandemic:

“Kirsty’s mother contacted me and was extremely keen for her daughter to be in Shared Lives. We had to be creative with matching as we couldn’t do any of the usual processes as this would mean Kirsty having to self-isolate in her room for two weeks if she even had a tea visit and the carers were not able to visit her due to the restrictions, so Sheik and Roumanah and their family Skyped her every week for months so they could get to know each other. Kirsty’s family met the Shared Lives family and worked with them to ensure a smooth transition. The room was adapted for Kirsty’s needs as she is partially blind, so they installed an ensuite shower room and an OT visited to install grab rails etc.

“Just after Kirsty moved in Sheik and Roumanah found out they were having another baby (which was a bit of a surprise for us all!) but we all worked together to ensure there was a contingency plan in place to allow continuity of care for Kirsty and the other gentleman they support in Shared Lives, with an additional ‘support carer’ approved alongside the one the family already had.”

Kirsty’s mum Joyce writes:

“The Shared Lives secret should be made widely known – amongst health and social services, charities and many more.  Since my adult daughter, a head injury survivor, moved to her wonderful new Shared Lives family in February 2021, she has been able to enjoy family meals, movie nights, helping the children with their spelling, listening to their bickering and simply being accepted and valued for the person she now is since her accident. Working with the family is a pleasure, most especially since the family has now expanded to include a new-born baby girl. Kind, caring families with appropriate experience and a suitable spare room are out there, as are countless adults with particular needs.  So please spread the word so that more people can be looked after by those who know how to care.”

Our family

Here is the second in what I hope might be a series of guest blogs from Shared Lives carers and their families talking about what it’s like for children growing up in a Shared Lives household. Many thanks indeed to PossAbilities Shared Lives scheme and to Jamie, Amanda, Jonathan and Thomas and their household for sharing their inspiring story:

Our Family

 

Our children Jonathan and Thomas have lived with people with learning disabilities permanently from infancy. Michael and John moved in with us in 1998 and shared all aspects of family life with the boys. Ranging from: shared swimming lessons, to boarding a plane for the first time on our family holiday.

Jonathan and Thomas viewed John as a third Granddad and watched his beloved Formula 1 racing with him each Sunday. John had had a stroke and had limited speech Jonathan and Thomas would always try to listen to his thoughts without causing John any frustration, putting the motto ‘we’ll get there in the end’ to practice. Sadly, John passed away in 2007 this was a difficult time for the boys but fond memories of him remain. They still watch Formula 1 each Sunday as a result of their interaction with him from such an early age.

Michael was more of a friend to Jonathan and Thomas as they had shared interests including: swimming, superheroes and trips to visit Bradley Bear in the lakes. Michael is still part of our family and despite the boys being aged 17 and 18 they are still referred to as ‘Kid’ by Michael, even when they are driving him for a burger.

Louise joined our family in 2003, initially she was joining temporarily for the weekend but refused to go home. Her mum and sister said she had made her choice and she has been a pivotal part of the family ever since. Louise doted on the boys from day one, and this was replicated by them. Unfortunately, Louise fell ill in 2013 and had to undergo chemotherapy. This had a profound effect on the boys as well as the rest of the family. Jonathan and Thomas were exceptional in aiding Louise throughout her time of need, from running for the ‘sick bowl’ to watching movies with her, always trying to make her smile. We must mention the close friends of the boys who provided fantastic support through this time. They often visited Louise, and were always enquiring over the phone how Louise was doing following trips to the hospital. They were thankfully able to attend the celebration of Louise overcoming her illness at our home. A fact which brought great joy to Louise, who had a wonderful evening.

Wendy came to live with us in 2008, though she was already a member of our extended family, living with the boys’ Gran, in her role Continue reading

Twenty years on: naturally radical

It’s Shared Lives week this week, with local events at 152 Shared Lives schemes across the country to celebrate the incredible achievements of Shared Lives carers and the people who live with or visit them in their family homes. The week started with our sold-out England conference and 20th Birthday celebrations, which led me to reflect upon the history of Shared Lives.

We can trace the idea of sharing home and family life with people who need support at least as far back as 14th Century Gheel in Belgium, when the town, which had become a place of pilgrimage for people with mental health problems, instead of building a large asylum outside of the city walls, decided to organise itself into a boarding out scheme which still survives today. Yet despite that 700 year history, this year, Shared Lives Plus was named as one of ‘Britain’s New Radicals’ by the Observer.

So we can’t claim that sharing your home and family life with someone who needs support is a new idea, but is it radical? I argued at our conference that Shared Lives carers are indeed radical. We are, I think, increasingly compartmentalised and isolated, as we try to manage the pressure of busier and busier lives and in many cases more demanding workloads. My partner and I find ourselves booking time with friends months in advance. My natural inclination is to have large walls between my work life, when I’m often away from home, my family life, and my ‘me time’ which usually involves reading or watching TV on my own when the rest of the family is in bed. People are often suprised to hear that there are about 8,000 Shared Lives carers in the UK, who have been radical enough to make caring for others not their job, but their lifestyle.

I think most Shared Lives carers would reject the notion that they are radical. He or she “is just one of the family” is something I hear very often. Sue Newton, our President, who was instrumental in founding our organisation and the sector in Liverpool in the late 80s/ early 90s, agrees and suggested at the conference that sharing your life is, in fact, the most natural of ideas.

So why does it seem so radical to so many people? This is partly because of the way that social care has developed. It has become Continue reading