Opening hearts and homes for vulnerable adults
Meet Lucy Njeri and Nigel Parkinson, two of our Shared Lives carers who have opened their home to support a vulnerable adult.
The Shared Lives scheme matches carers with adults who have care needs, such as learning, physical or sensory disabilities, mental health or an older person with dementia. The cared-for person lives with the carers so they have a family experience.
Lucy, who has past experience of care work, and Nigel decided to offer out their spare room in Walthamstow as part of the Shared Lives scheme. They became Shared Lives carers in 2018 and have found the past five years rewarding and challenging.
Reflecting on their experiences so far, Lucy said, “We wanted to help provide a place to live for those who need it. It has been enjoyable knowing we help others but challenging at times. We have had to adjust our lives to accommodate the needs of those living with us and deal with different behaviours. But making them happy and knowing we are helping with their development into society is rewarding. For anyone interested in becoming a Shared Lives carer, I would encourage them to go for it and enjoy the challenges and rewards.”
The care required differs depending on the cared-for person’s needs. Examples include personal care (such as washing and dressing), emotional and financial support, helping the cared-for person with day-to-day tasks and taking medication, and generally encouraging independence.
The Shared Lives carers form part of a community, leaning on each other for support, advice and respite. As having full-time responsibility for a vulnerable adult can be physically and mentally exhausting, carers are encouraged to take respite breaks, where the cared-for person stays with another family.
Lucy said, “The respite is essential for carers and a good break and alternative for the cared-for person. It’s also a good way to increase our network of contacts with other carers – we know more of the other Shared Lives carers because of these respite arrangements, which builds a closer community with greater support when needed.”
Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Adult Services at Waltham Forest Council, said, “I cannot speak highly enough of the amazing work that all of the Shared Lives carers, like Lucy and Nigel, do on a daily basis. They open their hearts and their homes to help those who need it.
“I attended the Shared Lives summer party, where I had the pleasure of speaking with our fantastic carers and the lovely people they look after. Seeing these adults flourish in a family environment and lead happy and more independent lives is so heart-warming.”