This short story describes the difference that Shared Lives has made to “Anna” (not her real name):
I recently attended a Best Interests meeting for a lady, Anna who had been placed with one of our Shared Lives carers, Jane, as an emergency after her mum sadly and very suddenly passed away leaving no other family members. The meeting was to decide whether Anna would continue living with Jane or not. The meeting included Anna, Jane, Anna’s advocate, Speech and Language Therapist, social worker and MacIntyre’s manager.
Although Jane is new to Shared Lives, she has worked for MacIntyre as a support worker for a number of years. She was a bit nervous about having someone live in her home with her and her partner but was up for the challenge. In her training we had discussed communication and Great Interactions and I felt that she really embraced this, giving examples of how she had changed the way she worked to best suit the person she was supporting. When Anna moved in with Jane, we had no information about how she communicated or her preferences and had to work hard to offer opportunities without overwhelming her. Jane used her skills developed from our Great Interactions training, particularly warmth and observation to do this respectfully.
In the Best Interests meeting, the advocate spoke first. She reported back from her meetings that she felt there is a “vibrancy” about Anna since she has lived with Jane. She said that Anna’s enthusiasm in wanting to communicate has improved, that her anxious behaviours had disappeared, that her personal hygiene and even her dental hygiene were greatly improved. She said that she had observed Anna at her day service engaging more with her peers and felt that may be because she now has something to contribute. She said that she felt Jane really celebrated Anna’s achievements and this made Anna really excited about them too and keen to do more. That Anna had remembered nine items of shopping where previously she had not demonstrated her fantastic memory.
The Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) said, “I just need to point out how good this is because you don’t get this very often.” She went on to talk about how Jane doesn’t give up until she is happy that she has understood what Anna is saying or that Anna understands her. She said that Jane sets Anna up to be successful. The next step is for the SALT to enhance this relationship with tools and resources to further help Anna explain not just what she wants but how she feels.
I have seen Jane in action and the positive changes in Anna but was really proud and happy that other professionals have noticed and felt compelled to comment. The meeting had started off positively but as it went on, the three professionals became really animated giving examples of when they had visited Anna and the amazing interactions they had witnessed. The final words were that it was so nice to be in a meeting where something really positive is happening.
I came away feeling humbled and wowed by the amazing difference truly great interactions can make to someone’s everyday experience and quality of life. And for Anna and Jane, they are planning a holiday and Anna wants a pet rabbit… and the sky is the limit.
Shared Lives Manager, MacIntyre