Dianne is a Shared Lives carer supported by Avalon Group, providing long term placements and personalised short breaks in a safe, family environment. We sat down with Dianne to talk about what attracted her to the role, and what makes it the most rewarding thing she's ever done.
How did you get involved with Shared Lives?
I saw an advert on Facebook, responded saying I was interested and an Avalon Service Manager came out to meet me really quickly and talked me through everything that was involved. The actual process to become a carer took some time, but I liked this because it meant it was very thorough and I knew everything was being done right.
What appealed to you about Shared Lives?
I liked the fact that there were options – day breaks, respite, long term and that it could fit in around our lives. My son, who used to live with me, could get involved as well and do the training so he could be my support carer.
I don’t have to change my life too much to accommodate the people I support either because my friends and family are all on board and love what I do. If I get invitations to do things or go places, I don’t say I can’t come I’ve got a customer staying, I always just ask if they can come along too and we go together.
Had you done anything like this before?
I have a background working in mental health services so I was quite used to this type of work, but I don’t think that’s essential for somebody considering Shared Lives. I think anyone with good life skills and empathy could be a great carer.
I have children and grandchildren and a lot of what I do through Shared Lives is the same as I would be doing with my family – it’s just normal day to day life. You’re not expected to be an entertainment co-ordinator, just to include and engage your customers as a part of your family.
What does a Shared Lives short break look/feel like?
It depends very much on the level of need and complexity of the customers and the length of the stay – which can be a couple of days or up to a few weeks. Again this is something quite flexible.
We plan our days around anything that needs doing and then things that we all enjoy. We have a beach hut in Scarborough, so we spend a lot of time there in the summer. In winter, it’s more indoor games and activities. Some customers are quite independent and like some time to themselves while others want to be with you or need some level of supervision all the time. It’s important as well to support the customers to maintain as much independence as they can and are used to. If they normally help with household tasks or cooking, then they should be encouraged to keep doing it.
We all eat together too. It keeps it inclusive and makes meal prep simpler.
You learn as you go along what works and what doesn’t and what fits in with your environment and capacity.
Could Shared Lives be a career for someone?
Yes, absolutely. You couldn’t just be in it for the money because you need to be very inclusive and embrace your customers within and alongside your family life, but you could definitely earn a living and find yourself doing something incredibly rewarding as well.
The paperwork is very manageable and there is help from Avalon as and when you need it. You always get sent through a care plan for a customer and it’s important to read it and re-read it to make sure you fully understand what is important for a customer.
It is really flexible and you can take on as much or as little as works for you – long term or short term.
Do you enjoy it and would you recommend it?
I absolutely love it. It comes naturally to me without really trying and it doesn’t feel like a job.
You do have to be careful to protect your boundaries as it is very easy to want to say yes to everybody, but again the Avalon team are great at making sure you don’t take too much on.
I would certainly recommend anybody who has space in their lives to offer a warm, caring environment to another person looks at finding out more. You can always start slowly, you will find your way and your confidence will grow as you get to know your customers and see just how much they benefit from spending time with you.
If you'd like to find out more about Shared Lives or become a Carer, click HERE.