People living with dementia (PLWD) can often face a difficult time after diagnosis, often only encountering services when they face an acute crisis. Without good person-centred support, PLWD often find themselves becoming isolated, and their health and wellbeing deteriorates. Unpaid family carers, who often lack support or training, commonly become isolated themselves and rarely have a break.
Shared Lives Plus, and several local Shared Lives schemes, have been invited along with four other service partnerships to test innovative and sustainable ways to provide outcomes focused support for people living with dementia and their unpaid family carers.
Shared Lives is one of the top-rated regulated forms of social care which involves an approved Shared Lives carer being matched with someone who needs support. The supported person lives with or regularly visits the carer and becomes part of home and family life. Although most people currently supported by Shared Lives are adults with learning disabilities, a growing number of people being supported have dementia.
During the next year, Shared Lives Plus will work with Shared Lives schemes in Wigan, North East London, Salford, Moray and Wiltshire to test and develop new ways to support people with dementia through Shared Lives, including day support and short breaks, to ensure that more unpaid family carers receive the breaks that they need.
There is huge potential for Shared Lives to improve the lives of people with dementia and their unpaid family carers.
Bill is in his 80s, and lives with his Shared Lives carers Bernie and Chris in their home in Leicester.
Bill met Bernie and her husband Chris through the Shared Lives matching process. Bernie says, “We had cared for people with learning disabilities before but not with dementia, so we were quite anxious about how this would work.” They took it slowly – Bernie and Chris began regularly visiting Bill at the care home and Bill tried an overnight stay. Bernie and Chris came to feel Bill was the right person for them, but it was down to Bill to decide if he wanted to be placed with them. He’s lived with them since October 2014.
The change in Bill is remarkable. Bill remains physically active, and his confidence has improved, especially now that Bernie has helped him get new glasses, better fitting shoes and slippers, and a new hearing aid. He’s regained his independence and dignity. Bernie says, “Bill’s got much more mobility now, it’s good that he’s able to shave himself.”
Bernie has taken Bill to church and to a memory café at a community centre and says, “The support of a Shared Lives carer can help someone stay engaged with life.”
The partnerships will be supported by Social Finance, who will work with the local schemes and wider partners to co-design service models, implement new practices and run a learning community which will enable the sharing of knowledge and provide a platform for cross-sector discussion and collaboration. Shared Lives Plus will draw out the learning and produce national guidance to support the models to be implemented across the country.