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    The benefits of being part of a Shared Lives Arrangement’

    Posted In Shared Lives / NAAPS

    Barry Hare – ‘This is My Life’.

    Barry has been living with Shared Lives providers Sandra and Julian Clare for just over 13 years. He was initially referred to the local authority adult placement scheme, now Adults Supporting Adults (ASA), after lengthy stays in various hospitals to treat an enduring mental illness. To begin with Barry was diagnosed with schizophrenia; however, it is only more recently that his mental ill health has been attributed to a Chromosome Deficiency. Nonetheless, it was recognised early on that Barry was going to need inpatient treatment on and off for the rest of his life. Too vulnerable to go back home and with family unable to cope with his acute behaviours, the Rehabilitation Unit at that time identified Shared Lives as a way for Barry to return to the community in which he lived. Funding was then subsequently agreed for Barry to access the shared lives arrangement provided by Sandra and Julian through ASA.  The practitioners putting the care package together showed real insight into Barry’s long term outcomes, not only was Shared Lives  a more financially viable option, but it also provided Barry with an informal support network which prevented him from falling in and out of costly Crisis Interventions, which to this day there have been no re-admissions.

    The first few months were extremely disruptive and Barry found it difficult to settle into his new family environment. He was still institutionalised to some degree and Barry would always ask to go to the toilet or to hang up his coat.  Barry struggled to motivate himself and interact with others; he had low self-esteem and issues surrounding a sense of security. Barry was also very apprehensive about going out into the community due to previous incidents. Although Barry had worked before in a Supermarket and for the local council as an Environmental Officer, he had few friends other than family and was already stigmatised in the town by his behaviours. Barry was often verbally and physically abused by local youths making him reluctant to venture out on his own or build new friendships. However, with a lot of support from the CPN and the Shared Lives Worker, Sandra and Julian became more confident in managing Barry’s behaviours and encouraging him to further develop his social and independence skills. To help reduce Barry’s anxiety it was also arranged that he would return to his parents’ each weekend, which continues to this day. When required, as in the case with Barry, there is always real focus on maintaining family contact as such familiar networks brings continuity to the arrangement.

    As Barry began to settle into his new environment and with everyone working together, Barry was supported to plan a routine to his weekdays. He began by attending day services and a work placement at a charity shop that lasted for 9 years and over the period spent with ASA Barry has been involved in various activity groups. However, recent local government cuts have seen to the closure of a lot of traditional resources which has affected Barry greatly. He currently helps Sandra in the office at the estate agents where she works and he also attends two voluntary day services setup by local people. Sandra and Julian’s two children have both grown up with Barry. They have now left home and have their own lives to lead, but they still keep in contact and are very much part of his social network, where Barry can go and visit when he is in town. When Sandra and Julian go on holiday, Barry goes to stay with other Shared Lives providers within ASA who are known to him and which he sees as a holiday as well.

    Now in his forties, Barry’s mental illness is managed by medication but there are still issues of self-neglect especially regarding his diet giving cause for concern about his physical health. However, there have been some successes and Barry has given up smoking for some 5 years now. In the beginning Barry was chain smoking, possibly symptomatic of his anxieties at that time. Sandra and Julian accept that Barry makes his own choices in life, but they support him to make informed decisions. With issues still around motivation and fixations on various medical ailments, Barry is currently being supported to see a psychologist to help help him recognise the need to manage his own physical health. Sandra also encourages Barry to develop his domestic skills, such as cooking, going to post his own letters, gardening, attending to his own bedroom, laundry, ironing and looking after the three dogs which he very much sees as his own. Sandra states that Barry is very much a gentleman, ‘always polite and willing to help out with chores around the house’.

    Barry has become part of the family over the 13 years and the thought of living on his own causes him some anxiety, but Sandra and Julian are still working towards the appropriate social and independence skills he would need. Whereas ‘adult placements’ were set up in the early 1990’s with a view to it being a home for life, the aim for quite a few years now has been to see a Shared Lives arrangement as something as a stepping stone. Whereby the client further develops the necessary skills in a safe family environment to become independent and move onto their accommodation if they so wish. The realisation of greater independence has been achieved for many clients that have passed through the Shared Lives arrangements provided by ASA over the years.

    Sandra and Julian receive monthly supervision from Sharon, the ASA worker and the CPN only becomes involved at annual review or when certain issues arise. There is still so much more that Barry could do but at present the aim of the arrangement is to manage his mental illness in the community without the need for other interventions. Once Barry is ready to move on, an organisation like ASA is fully equipped to provide further support in the community with bespoke resources such as day services, brokerage and 1:1 support amongst other things. Barry recognises the current support network around him keeps him safe and he regularly tells everyone that living with Sandra and Julian “is one of the best thing that ever happened to me.”

    To find out more about Adults Supporting Adults and the resources they provide, you can contact them on 01529 416270 or visit their website at: www.asaorg.co.uk. You can even follow them on Facebook or Twitter.


    November 7th, 2012

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