Shared Lives and Health
As Shared Lives grows and diversifies into working with people with many different needs and conditions, we have become more aware of the support that using Shared Lives brings to family and unpaid carers. Using shared Lives, particularly for day support, short breaks and respite can enable family and unpaid carers to feel more involved and confident in the care being received. Through the matching process, the people using Shared Lives and the people closest to them have the opportunity to choose who, where and how the care is provided.
We know that family and unpaid carers do a fantastic job looking after the person in their lives who needs care and support. We also know that family and unpaid carers are expert on the needs and wishes of the person being cared for and as such their comments and concerns need to be listened to and taken account of. Shared Lives offers an approach that puts the person using the service at the center of the care offered, but also makes room for the important people in their lives.
We also recognise that family and unpaid carers are people in their own right with their own physical, social and emotional needs. Shared Lives offers time off from caring to give carers a chance to recharge their batteries or attend to self-care. Because the person using the service will only go to the home of a Shared Lives carer that they have been matched with and have had time to get to know, carers can have confidence that there is a sound relationship and that the person they care for is somewhere they want to be and with people they like spending time with.
Whilst Shared Lives is often used as a long term support, it is increasingly being made available as a short breaks (sometimes known as respite) option to complement other arrangements. In Short Breaks Shared Lives arrangements a person will stay with a Shared Lives carer from one night to several weeks. Short breaks are usually accessed by people using long term Shared Lives arrangements, to have a break from staying with their main Shared Lives carer. They are also being increasingly used by family carers, as an alternative to traditional respite.
Shared Lives can also be used as day support, where a person receives support from a Shared Lives carer during the day. Part of the support will be provided at the Shared Lives carer’s home and then the person will be supported to access activities of interest in the local community.
Shared Lives Plus believes that independent Shared Lives carer support groups in each scheme can be invaluable in resolving issues and improving services.
Talking to a scheme worker or manager on some issues such as respite or payment can be intimidating for some people, because those relationships tend to place more power with the scheme worker.
In a support group people can speak collectively through elected representatives or spokespeople. In this way individuals can draw attention to particular issues without feeling vulnerable or exposed.
Being part of an independent Share Lives carer support group can help Shared Lives carers feel less alone and more understood. Support can come in the form of conversation and sharing experiences and resources or by simply listening to others.
Support groups enable people to work together to solve their own problems.
The Shared Lives transitions offer enables younger people to use Shared Lives before they become eligible for adult social care at 18 years old. As well as supporting Shared Lives schemes with information and advice, the Transitions Development Officer works to influence children’s services commissioners to consider using Shared Lives as an alternative for short breaks, respite planning and day opportunities for young people from 15 to 18 years old.
We are working to get the message about opportunities in transitions out to schemes and to expand the work nationally, raising awareness in national children’s fora and working with partners to provide more choice for young people.
You can see a briefing about Shared Lives and Young People in Transition here
Shared Lives Plus are working with Shared Lives schemes to develop more services aimed at people in later life, including those living with dementia and other life limiting conditions. Shared Lives is increasingly offering services, especially day support and short breaks, to older people who need some extra help to enable them to remain living independently in their homes and communities.
Some schemes are developing specialist dementia services, with Shared Lives carers being trained to support the person living with dementia and their family and carers, which will allow them to live better lives for as long as possible in their family home. We are also looking at how Shared Lives can offer care to older people leaving hospital and needing a temporary place to stay while they recover before resuming their normal lives in their own homes.
We are continuing to develop a number of resources for schemes who want to expand into providing support for older people, including business cases, some brief guides on specific areas of work such as intermediate care and reablement, developing a dementia friendly environments in Shared Lives carers’ homes and other aspects of working with older people - you can find more by following the link to our guides and business cases. We are also developing further training and guidance resources.