Page 39 - TalkingCareMagazine_Online Issue4
P. 39

deteriora ng health, those ac vi es are becoming less certain and we are becoming less reliable. As a result, my life as a Carer is divided into small slices of a couple of hours here and there, or a spell when I can get cover from friends or neighbours. Those pressures severely restrict my own social ac vi es, exercise, hobbies and voluntary work.
The support from circles of friends, neighbours and other understanding social groups is of course invaluable, but it is not ‘Respite Care’. Respite is when the Carer can hand over the Cared For to be looked a er by qualified and competent people who will take on the responsibility of Care for a few hours or days. And Respite Care is extremely difficult to find. Very few care homes offer it, and it is expensive. A day off for a Carer can easily cost £100 if booked via an agency.
Against that background, I as a Carer was very pleasedtohearofSharedLives. Inoursitua on, there were two main benefits ­ firstly social s mula onforJeanandsecondly,much­needed  me ‘off duty’ for me ­  me free of responsibility and off the treadmill. I first heard of Shared Lives from a friend who knew of a young person with learning difficul es who went to carers to give respite  me to parents.
A leaflet with a phone number brought me into contact with a Social Worker from the Oxfordshire County Council ­ Shared Lives Team, who was outstanding in her insight, and grasp of the situa on, and who visited us to meet Jean and get to know her and understand her problems. We were then introduced to Angela and Tom.
That turned out to be an inspired choice. Angela is a recently re red Senior Social Worker who ran a Demen a Service, and so has a very good grasp of the issues. Over the eighteen months or so that Jean has been going to Angela for respite care (one day per week, and one long weekend per month), Angela has taken the  me to get to know Jean and delivers a flexible and informal programme of ‘person­centred care’ and support. She organises trips to concerts, theatres, trips to the local charity shops, galleries, films, cooking sessions at home, manicures, pedicures and appointments at the local hairdresser, all taking into account Jean’s health and limited mobility on any par cular day. She has been very adept at responding to Jean’s changing (and sadly, deteriora ng) health. Although Jean has no detailed memory of events, she always speaks highly of her  me with Angela and says how much she enjoys it.
From my point of view, it works well. The pressures of 24/7 caring are huge and the outlook for the future is bleak. These precious hours or days of respite care, knowing that Jean is in good hands, give me back a piece of my life and allow me to recharge the emo onal ba eries. Thebenefitstobothsidesare immense.
Angela writes: My partner Tom and I were first introduced to Jean
and Michael about 18 months ago.
Jean is an intelligent woman, who enjoyed a career as a language teacher. She is fluent in French and
German, sociable and vivacious, enjoying food and drink and interested in music and art. Jean has memory
loss and arthri s, which causes significant pain, and
limits physical ac vi es, requiring control from strong medica on.
Michael introduced Jean to Tom and myself at pub lunches and we then moved on to weekly day support on Fridays and eventually weekend breaks. It has taken me some  me to work out what arrangements are prac cal and enjoyable and this has altered over  me as Jean’s condi onhaschanged. WestartedgoingtoTai Chi followed by a pub lunch but a er a few sessions Jean said she didn’t like it as she found the exercises painful. Jean also became unhappy at pub lunches and we suspected that she preferred to be in familiar surroundings – she has got used to our house and likes us and our dogs.
Having tried unsuccessfully an ac vity provided in Woodcote and aimed at older residents, I decided to focus on Jean’s strengths and look at what I could arrange that made best use of them. It was fortunate in that there was a request for volunteers to listen to children read at the local primary school. We did that together for about an hour on Fridays, and although Jean could not an cipate or remember what we were doing, she said that she enjoyed it, clearly felt useful and 1 to 1 with the children; the memory loss was not evident. The children knew they were there to read and had books ready so there was no need for Jean to remember why she was there. I sat with her to support if difficul es arose. As much as anything, Jean enjoyed feeling that she was part of a school again. Unfortunately this arrangement stopped when I had a break for a long holiday and the children started swimming on Friday mornings. I will try again in the new school year.
Another successful ac vity is cooking and listening to music, which we do both Fridays and at weekends. Jean even enjoys shopping to buy ingredients. This is a good  me to chat as Jean relaxes. I need to think about dishes with enough prepara on required so I can delegate, as unfortunately Jean can’t follow or choose a recipe. I need to do a ‘demonstra on’ piece of food, e.g. cut a mushroom to the size needed or keep a watchful eye while Jean fries onions etc., to check she is safe.
Weekends are a challenge as Jean’s condi on has deteriorated so that unless she has support, she will do nothing and usually go to sleep or at least sit with eyes closed. She is no longer able to read a magazine or do anything without some­one else’s involvement. Jean stays in bed un l lunch me and is fast asleep un l woken. She likes being in bed, so ge ng her up at lunch me is a compromise between allowing her choices and ensuring that she has enough to eat and some engagement with the outside world.
Once up, Jean is usually in a good mood and enjoys being supported to have a hot shower – promp ng is needed with this, and dressing or it would not happen. Le  to her own devices, Jean will usually go back to bed a er showering.
At weekends, I try to find some sort of musical performance or art exhibi on for us to go to as Jean usually really enjoys these; she loves being in a theatre even if she can’t follow a plot. It alsohelpsme,inthatIdon’thavetothinkof something to do with Jean for a few hours, it’s a love of classical music and theatre, something that we both have in common.
At home, I have some TV programmes and downloaded films that Jean enjoys. I am able to put favourite films on repeatedly as Jean forgets she has seen them – she has been absorbed in a ballet several  mes for a few hours and this enables me to have a break.
I communicate regularly with Michael by E­mail, as Jean is unable to tell him what she has been doing. His guidance and informa on has been vital to me in understanding Jean as an individual. I gain some understanding from Jean herself but due to memory loss, she is not always accurate in what she says and conversa on is turning increasingly to repeated reminiscence. Jean is a lovely person and it is challenging to do most of someone else’s thinking, planning, remembering and mo va ng for them. A er a weekend with Jean I can really appreciate Michael’s need for some  me off from his caring role.
Fortunately, although Jean misses Michael when she comes for the weekend, she has some insight and understands that he needs breaks and says she enjoys her  me with us.
We too enjoy our  me with her!
information point
Interested? Then contact the Shared Lives team to ask for a home visit to discuss your suitability to apply.
Telephone: 01865 897971 Email: or Write to: Shared Lives Scheme Oxfordshire County Council Abbey House, Abbey Close Abingdon OX14 3JD
  to someone else’s life...Shared Lives

   37   38   39   40   41