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“It took three weeks to get back to his former self, and some things were lost forever”

Our Shared Lives members regularly support people experiencing dementia – over 170 people in England in 2020-21. This is a guest blog from Claire Morphet of Rochdale’s PossAbilities CIC Shared Lives scheme about her recent experience with a family who valued the quality time and 1-1 interaction that Shared Lives offered.

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“In April, I was approached by Lynne, who gave up her job as a college lecturer to look after her dad, Harold. She has had her house adapted to support his needs and completely changed her lifestyle. Lynne also sometimes needed to go into hospital and  Harold would go for respite in a nursing home. Although Lynne had invested many hours researching and visiting nursing homes, when Harold returned home, she described her dad as ‘losing more of himself’. Now, with her wedding coming up, Lynne had intense fears of leaving her dad in a traditional respite setting again as she didn’t want to see him get worse.

The first time I went out to visit Lynne and Harold, Lynne described her dad as she remembered him: an amazing dad and grandad who loved children. When Harold greeted me and gave me a little dance, I was moved by the kindness in his face.  Throughout the time I spent with Lynne and her dad the love that she feels for him was evident. We chatted about Shared Lives and Lynne immediately put her trust in us. What Lynne and I experienced over the next couple of months was one of the hardest professional journeys I have taken and possibly one of the toughest journeys Lynne has had to make. During these months Harold was introduced to two Shared Lives carers, but both had to withdraw from providing support following changes in their own circumstances. Matches do not always work out, but it’s our role to keep trying until the right match is found.

Thankfully, we have a selection of long term Shared Lives carers, and Karen lives very near to Harold and visits the same Tesco that he used to go to. Her husband, Vincent, remembered Harold as a former next door neighbour when he was a child. We introduced Harold to Karen, and during the two weeks that Harold stayed with her, we kept in regular contact. Following the short break, Karen said,

“It was an absolute pleasure to be matched with Harold. He instantly became part of the family, and it was great that I could spend quality time with him. We would sit down and watch musicals and we would both enjoy singing along and having a good chat. We went out for walks often, although Harold cannot walk too far. It was thoroughly enjoyable and one of the most rewarding arrangements I have ever had.”

Lynne says she will definitely use Shared Lives again. In fact, she and her new husband are planning regular weekend breaks. Lynne said, “My dad was his usual self on our return and slotted straight back in as though he hadn’t even been away. Whilst this may not seem like much, you know that when he went to a care home during my operation and hospital stay he came back quiet, withdrawn, unable to do things like his much-loved word search and what I can only describe as depressed (hard to tell as he can’t tell you). It took us over three weeks to get him into some kind of former self, however some things were lost forever.

“The weekend trial at Karen’s house went amazingly well and put my mind at rest too.  I wanted him to have some one-to-one time, human contact and feel like part of a family (home from home). I didn’t want him feeling alone, confused, neglected or afraid (he doesn’t like loud noises and he has a routine etc).

“I will definitely be using Karen again. She and her husband Vincent were amazing with my dad and clearly looked after him and treated him as one of the family. They were truly wonderful and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such great care of him.”

Find out more about how Shared Lives care can support people experiencing dementia