As swimming pools and exercise classes closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lady with Down’s Syndrome began running for the first time and has completed the Couch to 5K challenge with her carer who is part of the Shared Lives scheme ran by Nottinghamshire County Council.
The Shared Lives scheme supports adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other needs so they can live as independently as possible in the community. The scheme matches someone who needs care with an approved carer. By offering time and encouragement, carers can develop long term, rewarding relationships with the person that they welcome into their family and home.
Julie Lenehan, a Shared Lives carer from Retford, has cared and supported Jo for over five years. Before lockdown, Julie took Jo to to several activities each week to keep her fit and active including swimming lessons, Zumba and Slimming World, all of which were cancelled because of Covid-19.
Due to the limited number of activities Jo could take part in, Julie was looking for something new to do and her son suggested taking part in the Couch to 5K running challenge for beginners.
Using the Couch to 5K guidance, Julie and Jo have been training since the beginning of lockdown and have built up stamina each week. Twelve weeks later, Jo and Julie successfully completed the 5K Challenge and are over the moon with their achievement.
Jo said: “I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience! We’ve been practising for a while and the challenge has been difficult at times but I’m glad Julie supported me throughout the training. It is a great achievement and I received a new t-shirt and 5K medal as a reward! It was amazing and I’ll definitely keep running.”
Julie Lenehan, Shared Lives carer said: “I hadn’t run for years! My son suggested the couch to 5K challenge, and I got Jo involved. Running is a great activity and I’m really chuffed that even in the rain we completed our 5K challenge! It was marvellous and we’ll keep it up!”
“It’s amazing to see what Jo can achieve as she means a lot to me. I’ve been a Shared Lives carer for five years with Jo and a further three years with another lady prior to that.”
Shared Lives carers share their home and community life with individuals, ranging from a few hours a week, to long term live-in arrangements. By offering time and encouragement, carers can develop long term, rewarding relationships with the person that they welcome into their family and home.
Julie added: “I really enjoy being a Shared Lives carer and I find it extremely rewarding. I would recommend this role to anyone and as long as you’re willing to give the commitment, it’s fantastic.”
“I’ve worked in residential care in the past but my favourite thing about this role is that you have a strong 1:1 support role. You can be your own boss too and work hours that you are willing to do. I’m a long-term Shared Lives carer but the great thing is that there are short term respite carers that step in when I need a break.”
Councillor Tony Harper, Chairman of the Nottinghamshire’s Adult Social Care and Health Committee said: “Our Shared Lives Scheme aims to help people across Nottinghamshire to experience ordinary life with real relationships. The scheme has been very successful and was rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission last year.”
“I’d like to give a special thanks to Julie Lenehan for doing such a fantastic job as a Shared Lives carer and literally going the extra mile to ensure Jo has been keeping fit and active lockdown. We’re recruiting more Shared Lives carers and we’re looking for people who are passionate and dedicated about the support they provide to the people who need it. If anyone is interested in this rewarding role, I encourage them to enquire about the scheme.”
There is no specific eligibility criteria for the Shared Lives scheme, but carers must be committed to the values of shared lives – respect, promoting independence, social inclusions and safeguarding.
To enquire about becoming a Shared Lives carer visit: www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/sharedlives