My Shared Life – Shared Lives Week

Carmen is pictured smiling, with a window in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Carmen, one of our Shared Lives carers.

A colleague suggested that becoming a Shared Lives carer would be right up my street, and that maybe I should think about doing it. After careful consideration, I decided to find out a bit more about the nature of the scheme. Seeing the work that was involved, my interest continued to grow, and I filled out an application immediately.

I originally interviewed to become a full-time long-term carer, and whilst waiting for someone permanent, I was asked if I would consider respite in the interim, which involved taking care of someone whilst their usual carer had a break. My first placement was on a fortnightly basis for the weekend. A couple of months later, I was allocated another placement for weekend support, on a six-weekly basis. Undertaking this respite gave me valuable insight for my next steps, and how to best use my skills.

I was eventually offered two women to care for permanently. At this time, I had no plans of giving up my job as a social care practitioner. Through gaining an even deeper perspective, I learned that I would need to be available full time for both women in case any issues or an emergency arose. I was asked to write out a plan on how I would handle this. Whilst doing this, I thought that sometimes you needed to take risks in life, and I decided to make a full commitment to Shared Lives and quit my job.

Transitioning from practitioner to carer ran rather smoothly. There were no real concerns regarding getting on with my family members, or vice versa. I was adequately able to adjust my routines, especially support.

I found my skills of being a social practitioner useful as it helped me to provide support in a person-centred and holistic way. Reablement was also at the top of my mindset. As I was considering the future of the women I care for, I knew that giving them as much independence as possible, was key. Over time, the results varied. One of the women I care for became a key holder and was able to go into local supermarkets to purchase lunch independently. The other woman I care for eventually stopping hoarding and impulsive spending/buying and started saving and budgeting. I was able to establish boundaries, encourage her to book activities, and learn how to pay with a card over the phone and use a mobile phone. These outcomes helped both of them with their confidence.

Two hands are pictured holding, the hand on the right has a wedding ring visible.

This Shared Lives role has given me a whole new meaning and approach to my own life. It is rewarding personally making a difference to someone’s life.

It does help when you have a good match, and beneficial when you have interests in common.  It is essential to have training to give confidence with policies, safeguarding and important issues like medication. It is also good to meet up with fellow carers, so we can share experiences, give/get advice and if it is a social event, it’s a good respite from your caring role to enjoy and meet people just like you.

I would highly recommend Shared Lives to anyone.

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Could you offer your support to someone in Bristol to help them live independently?

Becoming a Shared Lives carer will make the world of difference to someone who needs extra support in their life.

You will build relationships by sharing interests and lifestyles, which will help them to live more independently in a caring community.

Placements range from short breaks to longer term stays so if you are interested in finding out more about joining our supportive community of carers visit the Shared Lives webpage on the Bristol City Council website, email sharedlives@bristol.gov.uk or give the team a call on 0117 352 5488.