In Reading, Lorna was one of the first people to join Shared Lives when it launched in in the early 1990s – and Lizzy moved in.
Lorna first heard about Shared Lives from Lizzy’s mother, “Lizzy wanted to leave home and gain some independence. At the time, I was looking for a lodger and friends with Lizzy’s family, so it seemed like a perfect solution. Lizzy’s mum was aware of Shared Lives and said she’d prefer it if we joined. I’m so glad I did because I don’t think it would have worked without the scheme’s support. “Lizzy really has become part of the family now!”
Lorna has also offered respite and day support over the years and now cares full time for Lizzy and two other women, as well as offering additional respite to others.
“Lizzy goes to a day care centre during the week and as a Shared Lives carer, I was able to work flexibly part time and make sure I was there for her when she got home in the afternoon.
“The best thing about it is how rewarding it is. You act as a facilitator. When someone first comes to you, they might not have basic life skills most people take for granted. When you help someone to gradually gain their independence – such as buying a drink in a café for the first time, putting on some washing or using their own door key – and you see how much they grow in confidence in those little achievements – which is life changing for them – that is worth a million dollars in my book!”
Lizzy says, “I’ve learnt how to do washing, cooking, go to the café – and taking Barney for walks!
The whole family do lots of activities together, including going to slimming world – “Lizzy has wanted to lose weight for ages and we enjoy going together.” They walk Lizzy’s dog Barney and enjoy cooking. Lorna also owns a caravan on the coast where she, Lizzy, and the others regularly go for breaks.
“It’s the consistency that Shared Lives offers people. When they become part of your family you get to know them so well. Some of the people I care for will never say if they are upset about something or feeling ill. I know the signs to look for and can often help them to open up. I’m not just a carer, I’m a trusted friend.”
Lorna sums up her role perfectly: “I really do have the best job in the world!”