Find out more about some of our Shared Lives carers and their experiences of the service here.
Kirsty and Ian
Before I became involved in Shared Lives I worked as a home carer and rehab worker, Ian my husband was in the building trade. We started by offering respite care through short breaks which is where a person who needs support stays with a family for a holiday to give their own family a break.
I really loved doing this and I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to be a Shared Lives carer full time. So I handed in my notice and I have been working from home full time now for the last six years and have never looked back.
We look after Susan 60, who lives with us permanently. Susan is really like a daughter to me, she came to stay with us a few times before she moved in. Susan really loved the lifestyle and living out in the country with all the animals. We do everything any other family would do. We go out for meals, go on holidays together, celebrate family events and have Christmas together etc.
David 55, also lives with us permanently. David came to stay with us in February 2013 and has lived here ever since and is very happy. David likes to spend time watching the TV and writing out recipes. We have many pets, including dogs and horses and David likes all the animals and he says our house is a fun house to live in.
We also provide respite breaks and the people who come to stay with us are a great bunch, they all join in with the family. Neil is one of our regulars and he typically stays for a week or a fortnight. When Neil comes to stay we try to make it like a holiday for him by planning trips out together and going out to different places. He really likes cooking so we often bake cakes and scones at home together.
We look on the people who come to stay with us as part of our own family but we also have to remain professional at all times. That’s when the training comes in, we attend training sessions throughout the year.
It can be hard at times but what role isn’t? To make it work you have got to get to know the people who you are caring for, get to know their ways and let them get to know yours. However, there is always the Shared Lives team who are on hand to help anytime of the day, either by a phone call to the Shared Lives office or one of the team will come out to see you to offer advice.
There are lots of rewards too, the best thing is it’s just like having an extended family.
I was a housewife, mother, and been the family organiser for a number of years. In 1998 I started my own bed and breakfast business and it was then that I saw an advert for Shared Lives Northumberland. I became a carer in 2003 and have been a Shared Lives carer ever since. I started by doing short breaks and now I am a full time carer.
It is not just sharing your home it’s sharing your life as well. When I made the decision to take on the role full time I had to consider my young children who were living at home. We went to see another Shared Lives carer and met people they supported as part of the service and not long after we made a family decision to go ahead.
We had people coming to stay on short breaks from a few days up to a couple of weeks to start with but even before they first stayed we had them around for tea at our house so everyone could meet and see how we got on first. And even then we weren’t just chucked in at the deep end. Things progressed from there.
Iain, 56, used to come to us on short breaks for about a year and John, 51, came to us initially on an emergency placement because his dad was ill, and then for short breaks, before they both came to live with us.
It was a bit nerve wracking at first, especially with John due to the initial circumstances but I remember thinking if he’s happy with it and we get on, then why not? John came every three or four months and stayed for one to two weeks, I think it was after the third or fourth time, when he went to go home, he started to cry and he said he wasn’t going to go and that was it.
Straight away they both fitted in with the family really well. We do lots of nice things like day trips, shopping, watching our favourite soaps, and walking the dogs.
We also go on a holiday with the boys once a year which they choose. They come on our family holidays too and sometimes we have a family holiday without them, maybe for two weeks a year.
My family also help out occasionally so I can take a break for a few hours too. They take Ian and John on day trips, go for lunch and to the cinema. So everyone has their own space and makes their own choices, which is really good.
We get support from our Shared Lives worker who’s always at the end of the phone if we need them. We also have the boys care managers who come and see how they are getting on and we go on regular training and keep in touch with other Shared Lives carers. So there is lots of support available.
The best thing about it is when you see a smile on their face and everybody’s happy and you know in your heart that you’re giving something back.