Teresa Walker, who is a carer with Shared Lives South West, takes caring to another level by opening her own family home to vulnerable adults and supports them to flourish. She talks to Care Talk about why she is passionate about helping the people she supports to thrive….
Having spent my whole career working in the care industry I decided I wanted to make a real difference to the lives of people I support.
I worked in residential and traditional care settings at the start of my career, but once I had children I knew things had to change and I opened my own family home to people with support needs.
That was 30 years ago and I’ve never looked back… and most importantly my whole family have embraced the people who live with us and they are very much part of all of our lives. To me it doesn’t feel like a job, it’s a lifestyle choice and I love it.
Roma, 76, has lived with us for 30 years, along with couple Kerry and Matt who have stayed with us for 18 years and six years respectively.
We’ve treat them as individuals, helped them grow and made them part of their local community.
Roma came to us with little independence, so over time with lots of support she’s learnt to do things for herself and make many more choices about her life. She had never had her own bank card, bought her own clothes or decided where she wanted to go on holidays.
In recent times we’ve worked with the local bank to build up her confidence to take cash out from her account. I went with her many times to teach her how to queue and what to say at the counter. She’s now confident to do this herself and it’s part of her routine. Seeing the difference in her gives me a huge sense of achievement.
Rewind 30 years and Roma had never been to beach or felt soft sand between her toes or enjoyed big family holidays.
That has changed, as only last year my whole family went to Longleat, we visited the beach and we fulfilled Roma’s dream of going to the Edinburgh Tattoo. She’s also booked a Mediterranean cruise with us this Summer.
When we go away as a family unit, we have great time and Roma’s relationship with my children and grandchildren is very special. They see her as an ‘Aunt’ and always look out for her.
There’s no doubt we have a diverse family, as we also support couple Matt and Kerry who are in their 30s.
We’ve made small steps to make big changes in Kerry’s life to make her more independent.
She works as a volunteer in a local charity shop and loves being part of the local community. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed and she recently received the accolade of employee of the month. We’ve helped give Kerry a voice, take pride in herself and watched her confidence blossom.
Along the way, we have also supported Matt get paid work in a garage by preparing him for the interview and shopping for suitable clothes for it. He’s so happy, which makes me really proud.
Being there for Matt and Kerry as a couple is also part of my everyday life. They have tiffs like all couples and I talk through it and help them reconcile.
Due to their support needs I also help to book them trips out to the theatre, bowling and to the Grand Prix, which they love.
Through supporting them, they can now catch the train to familiar places and have a night away knowing that I’m a phone call away.
Seeing the changes in them all is beyond rewarding and having the support of Shared Lives, when things are more challenging, makes caring the only job for me.