Hi my name is Archie, my wife Christine, and I are both Shared Lives’ carers. Christine is the primary carer and tonight I would like to share some of our experiences as Shared Lives carers. Just over 5 years ago we heard about Shared Lives through a charity called Cornerstone and for us it seemed the right thing for us.
Having the time and the space allowed us to open our lives and our home to offer those who not only needed support but a safe, loving, caring and nurturing environment to help find fulfilment and happiness in their lives, just to be like everyone else. Being a Shared Lives carer is not for everyone, but there are many others out there who would make excellent Shared Lives’ carers.
We have two young women who live with us and come from similar backgrounds, yet the effects of which have had very different impacts on their individual lives. Nothing prepares you for the changes that take place in home life as the dynamics of these new relationships take time to settle in. We quickly realised that this was a journey of discovery and that we needed to work together to achieve a harmonious family life.
We adopted a teamwork approach, our motto being `Teamwork always works’. It sure works for Christine and the girls as I have three ladies telling me what to do. Driving in the car I not only have the `sat nav’ telling me where to go there are now three other voices giving directions. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because they have enriched our lives and that of our family. It opens up your eyes to people with a learning disability what they have to face just to get by each day, especially without the love and support of a caring and understanding family.
We have also found new friends and support through the other Shared Lives carers and never have we felt alone in the journey through them, Cornerstone and Social Work who have been right there with us.
Support is one thing but unconditional love is where we all thrive. Unconditional love is if you like the x factor in what Shared Lives offers to those we care for, giving them the opportunity to reach whatever potential they are able to achieve, and it also challenges us to see life from their perspective.
To give you an example of this: We have seen two young women slowly change from just travelling the system to finding a place where they belong and integration into normal family. Life. It gives them the confidence to try new experiences in a positive way, rather than the frustrations that come through being unable to cope. Shared Lives gives them a safe nurturing environment where they can learn from their mistakes just as we did growing up in a family home and also where possible to heal some of the hurt that life has inflicted on them. To quote from a well-known song, sung by Michael Ball `Love Changes Everything’.