Shared carers play a valuable role in society. Over the last 15 months the coronavirus pandemic has been extremely challenging for shared lives carers.
A shared lives carer supports adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other needs that make it difficult for them to live a fully independent lifestyle.
And this year Hull City Council is proud to be celebrating the incredible work the shared lives carers do as part of Shared Lives Week 2021.
Paula Curtiss, registered manager for Shared Lives, said: “For many of us, the pandemic and lockdowns have been extremely challenging.
“The impact this has had on shared lives carers and those they support is no less so. When you care for someone who is not a family member, but lives with you as part of the family, it makes this caring very unique and specialised within adult social care.
“People are staying at home and being supported 24/7 by the carer. Normal day routines have been disrupted. For people who rely on structure and routine for their mental and physical wellbeing, the carers have had to adopt different ways of working.”
The scheme matches someone in need with an approved carer who shares their family and community life whilst giving care and support to someone with care needs. The carer provides accommodation and support, with some individuals moving in with their carer. Daytime and overnight visits are also provided for those who prefer.
Paula said: “Throughout the worst of the pandemic, shared lives carers went without breaks from their caring role. The usual networks of support were disrupted with the closure of facilities and family members who sometimes assisted with informal support had to self-isolate.
“It was an extremely testing time.
“Nevertheless, the commitment of the carers to those they support has been awe-inspiring. It would be an understatement to say it’s been a tough year, and Shared Lives Carers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to maintain the highest level of care they can possibly provide.”
Jez is one such carer. He said that it had been difficult at times looking after Vijay, who he supports, but they have stayed optimistic and generally coped well.
Jez said: “Vijay lost his structure and routine with all the activities he had done for the last five years. I needed to keep him occupied. Outdoor exercise has helped reduce his anxieties and form a new weekly routine.
“As a lone carer, being on your own in these difficult times is challenging. But because we’ve been outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise, it’s helped the mental and physical health of both of us and allowed us to stay positive.”
Jez and Vijay were able to keep occupied with Vijay’s horse Blackjack and also enjoy long walks on the beach and trike rides around East Park. They even found time after lockdown to visit Scarborough’s Sea Life Sanctuary, Falling Foss in North Yorkshire and go on boat rides on Hornsea Mere.
Despite the real difficulties of being a shared lives carer during a pandemic, Jez felt very privileged to be in the situation he’s in. His positive outlook on life and his natural flare for this kind of work has enhanced both his own and Vijay’s life with experiences that few other care services can offer.
This year’s Shared Lives Week theme is ‘resilience’ for the durability shown by carers like Jez, in ensuring who they care for has received the best possible support over the past year.
To find out more about the Hull Shared Lives scheme and how you can register your interest to become a shared lives carer visit Connect to Support here.