Annette has been a Shared Lives Carer for a year. Currently providing respite care and both long and short term care for a number of people and loves the variety.
She trained as an Architect but when her son was born, she knew she needed a role with more flexibility working from home. This meant a massive career change, she finished work and become a foster carer fostering children and young adults for seven years.
Again, as her life circumstances changed, she decided to continue caring but in a different way. A friend who was a Shared Lives Carer suggested she look at doing this.
After researching the programme extensively, she decided that this was a natural progression from fostering and gave it a go. The process was straightforward and the induction and training thorough and invaluable.
She enjoys caring and loves thinking up new and creative ways of engaging to nurture the people she supports. Whether this is through cooking, days out, games such as the ‘shopping list’ game, crafts such as bracelet making or watering the vegetables and flowers she grows in her garden.
Doing a variety of activities helps build a rapport with the people she supports. It also builds their confidence, allows them to interact and develops their social and cognitive getting them talking and sharing.
When I asked her what she would say to someone who was thinking about becoming a Shared Lives Carer, she said.
“Being a Shared Lives Carer is rewarding, but it is what you make it so, be organised and proactive. Think creatively and don’t be afraid to try new things and new activities to get the most out of the caring experience.”
Sue has been a Shared Lives Carer for about a year. She looks after nine people (not all at the same time) with a variety of needs and provides those individuals with mini breaks, holiday breaks and short term respite care for up to a week at a time.
Not a stranger to caring, Sue worked at the Jubilee Centre in Bolton for over 30 years and had to finish because of an accident. She loved her job and decided that despite being unable to return to the workplace, she was not ready to give up caring for others.
Becoming a Shared Lives Carer was, therefore, a natural progression for her.
It is a family thing as well. Steve her husband, their extended family, three children, 11 grandchildren, three great grandchildren and Bob the dog all get involved in caring when people come to stay.
Meeting new people, getting to know their individual characters and providing them with personalised care is what makes it worthwhile for Sue. She loves the variety and finding out what they like doing. Whether its cooking, gardening knitting, colouring, going for walks, playing with Bob the dog, watching TV or relaxing in the garden.
She finds it extremely rewarding when someone has finished their stay and then asks when they can visit again.
I asked her what advice she would give to anyone thinking of becoming a Shared Lives Carer.
Give it a go, see if you like it. Once you are approved the service will go at your pace until you build your confidence up and are ready to offer more care and support.
The meet and greet sessions and the training provided as part of the approval process are really helpful and give you everything you need.
Kirk and Liam
Kirk and Liam care for S who is 20 and attends college three days a week. S has complex needs and is non-verbal. He lives with them in Bolton, has his own space and loves watching videos and listening to music.
As a busy professional couple, Kirk and Liam have demanding jobs and share caring responsibilities. Liam works full time as a nurse with NHS and Kirk is an Estate Agent in Bolton, working three days a week.
Originally, the couple were looking at fostering but had a good friend who was a Shared Lives carer and decided that this would be a more rewarding option.
They were matched with S who was in a foster care. Being with Kirk and Liam has helped S become settled and happy and has allowed him to grow and mature into a young adult with a zest for life.
Describing the Shared Lives selection process as thorough, they had regular meetings with their care coordinator and met with S several times. They did a series of short term visits with him and he moved in with them in November 2019 once they had completed the transition period.
S has regular respite with another carer and Kirk describes them as having a “happy, structured family life with S as the focal point.” S has Impacted their lives positively and given it new meaning. The couple are getting married soon and S will be attending the celebrations and going on holiday with them.
When asked what advice they would give to new Shared Lives Carers they said.
“Our shared lives experience has been a rewarding one and we were given plenty of training and time to adjust and for S to get used to living with us.”
They think that networking with other Shared Lives Carers is invaluable. Sharing and exchanging vital information and experiences is crucial, especially if new to caring.