Where is home and what does it mean to you? It can be a physical building but for many of us it is a feeling, a place, a smell or a view. The people who know you, being a ‘regular’, stopping for a chat, a beaten track and reassuring landmarks. When you’ve lived somewhere all your life and these things are part of your routine, it can be hard to think how you might live without them.
Having to give up what’s familiar because your health and wellbeing are failing can be one of the hardest decisions. A 2015 study by the Strategic Society Centre found that 80% of older homeowners wished to stay where they are. The Centre for Ageing Better found that 84% of people aged 70 and over felt that they strongly belong to their neighbourhood. But what if you could stay in the place you love and be supported by the community? And what does that mean for rural communities?
In 2019, Shared Lives Plus received funding from the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation and worked with Shared Lives schemes to explore how it could meet the needs of older people living in rural and isolated parts of the country. The project, which covered parts of Cornwall and Devon, Shropshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire set out to discover what older people in these areas wanted from services, what provision already existed and how Shared Lives could offer support.
Shared Lives is a model of social care where a person that has developed care needs can visit, or move in long-term with, a local Shared Lives carer. Shared Lives carers are fully trained and approved and provide care in their own home – no institutions, no wards or blank walls. A Shared Lives household is a home from home, complete with pets, family and friends. Shared Lives carers are matched with people based on compatibility, where they live and what they can offer – so the support is completely personal and tailored to the individual. It is also rated as the highest quality and safest form of care by the CQC.
Most of the older people we spoke to wanted to stay at home and usually this is the best option, but it can put a lot of pressure on family carers and local adult services. In rural areas the distances needed to travel can be prohibitive, meaning that some people are left for long periods of time without respite or help and support. Flexible, local Shared Lives day support and short breaks can help fill this gap and at the same time provide rewarding work opportunities for local people.
During the project, the schemes assessed and approved 20 new Shared Lives carers to support people locally. The project forged new partnerships between Shared Lives schemes and local services which have great potential for future referrals into Shared Lives and for flexible, holistic support for older people to stay in their communities. The partners in the project continue to look at ways they can reach more people who can benefit from Shared Lives care and support.
In this short film, made in rural Aberdeenshire, we see the power of Shared Lives to help people stay in and enjoy their communities to the full. Hear more about Brian, who lives with his Shared Lives carer Shiri.
Brian has become part of the family, and his confidence and connection to the local community have flourished. Shiri and her family can stay in their wonderful family home because of the employment she has through Shared Lives while Brian gets to enjoy the great outdoors that he loves, working on the land and selling logs. We also met Doug and his carer Joyce who came to visit Brian and Shiri at the same time. They also live locally, which is incredibly important to Doug, who loves his local area and the people in it: ‘it’s a great place to stay – everyone speaks to one another’.
Pauline Desborough, a social worker with Aberdeenshire Shared Lives says:
“Often there can be decline in people’s health if they are moved to a new environment, we can keep people at home for longer by offering them good, meaningful support.“
There is growing recognition of the need to provide meaningful support for older people in rural communities. Age Scotland recently stated on the increase in an ageing population in rural Scotland: ‘With a growing number of older people living alone, it is critical that we support people to live well and safely in their own homes, that they have enough income and are well connected to people, services and their community… regardless of where they live. When planning to enhance communities, the Scottish Government and councils across the country must not forget rural Scotland’.
Since filming at Brian and Shiri’s the UK went into lockdown. This meant big changes to the ways many Shared Lives Services operated especially with day services closed. Those in live-in arrangements have had the reassurance of their Shared Lives carers and their family home to take comfort in over the period and many schemes have adapted to offer phone and online support. Aberdeenshire Shared Lives has moved some day support and social activities online and they are being well attended and received.
Brian and Shiri have kept in contact and let us know how they are getting and the share some good news during this difficult time.
“Brian has new safety boots and boiler-suit he ordered (he chose the red one). He also bought a notebook and every day we record what he has done so it gives him a sense of a normal working day.
He has started to enjoy being home now instead of feeling at a loose end. He is learning new things, like using a log horse and a hydraulic log splitter with Andy, wearing safety goggles of course. With me he will organise his tools on the peg board. He was a bit nervous when he saw the pegs, hooks etc and did not understand how it would work. ‘I have never done that before’ but after a while he said ‘It is good to learn new things!’
He has set up his own little micro enterprise and any money he gets from his wood cutting he gives to his day service which is a Camphill charity. All carefully written down and signed for. Nearly every day he finds money in the honesty box and puts it in the sealed piggy bank pot, and he feels so proud of it all.”
Brian also look forwards to online events with the church and Aberdeenshire Shared Lives.
Many Shared Lives schemes are looking at ways they can support more older people and those in rural areas.
Contact www.sharedlivesplus.org.uk or your local scheme to find out more.