We have launched our Facebook page as a platform for Shared Lives carers to connect with each other, share their experiences and support each other with an online community.
You can find our Facebook page here.
We thought the best way to do this, is to have Shared Lives carer, Andy Cooke, write a guest blog about his Shared Lives arrangement with James. Andy and James, do a lot of work to promote Shared Lives, they have attended many of our events and have featured in an NHS blog.
Rather than us writing and telling you all a Shared Lives story, we thought that it would be best coming from a Shared Lives carer.
Andy Cooke wrote in and told us his story about his life with James.
“James and I have been in a Shared Lives arrangement, in Herts, for just over six years. Before then James had spent over 20 years in specialist residential care. Moving into a small town community was a huge step for James and a steep learning curve for Andy and the family. Really, settling in takes time, probably about 3 years- building confidence, independence and most important for me, James having a normal life. There have been times when James has been very poorly, numerous hospital admissions, but now with lots of things to do his health has significantly improved.
A couple of years ago, I asked James what sort of life he wanted. James said, ‘more friends and a paid job’. This is what we set out to do together. James now has friends at his favourite local café and in the pub down the road. He works in the Country Market, selling tea and coffee and meeting local people. James works in a local shop, not a charity shop, gets training and has made lots of friends. He is on the last day of a 12 week course at the moment with a large supermarket- and he may be offered a paid job. Throw in some Karate, which he was told he should never do, bird watching, photography and voting for the first time in his life you have a citizen, and as James says ‘I feel part of the town’. This has taken time with me supporting James a lot at first so that he can make those vitally important community connections."
James and Andy have done some work with Shared Lives Plus that has meant travel around the country and brilliant experiences for them both.
Andy: "All the above is good but what really matters is that James feels a part of the family. Sitting watching some favourite programmes, having meals together, my wife Laura and James making Christmas cakes, going to Ikea, choosing and giving birthday presents, looking after Bronte, the dog and going to the pub. Pretty normal stuff really- that’s great! Anyone who would like to connect with us, talk to us, and meet with us – we would love to hear from you.”
You can follow Andy on Twitter: @andydcooke