Flying the nest
During 2015 Heidi and I started looking for a supported living home/flat that she could move to.
We were shown round a group home, which she decided was not for her. We were told about flats where she would have her own front door but staff from an agency (XXX) would support her for as many hours as she needed. We casually asked them to let us know if any flats became available.
In October 2015 Suzie went off to university, we had just about got used to being 3 at home when a phone call (in December) from XXX informed us of an available flat in the same block as a friend of Heidi’s.
Heidi was only 20. Although I had always planned for this, I had assumed she would be about 22 plus. I didn’t feel ready for her leaving. Heidi of course was 100% positive and excitedly looked round the flat. She loved it.
I immediately googled whether she would still be able to get to work by bus from the flat – partly hoping that the journey would be impossible. I was shocked to find that it cut her journey down by over half! Drat - I couldn’t use that as a reason.
The pros won and December saw Heidi signing rental agreements, buying furniture and decorating the flat for Christmas (even though she wasn’t moving in till after Christmas!)
As assessment was done by the social worker and XXX and hours agreed for staff to support her. She was invited by XXX to interview possible support staff. It was at this meeting that I had my first misgivings about XXX – the interviewees and XXX seemed to have a different view on independent living than us! (We found out later that the interviews were not just for Heidi as we had been informed but for general support work at XXX).
So on 29th December in she moved. She slept like a log, I didn’t! Heidi loved being in the flat, offering everyone who visited, (including the delivery men and the man who came to move the “spy hole” so titch could see who was at the door) a drink and biscuits.
I noticed when I visited that the staff were busy doing the housekeeping jobs and Heidi was very happy to inform me that this was the norm and she spent her hours on facebook and watching TV.
It became apparent very soon that XXX staff’s idea of independent living was a million miles away from ours. The management didn’t seem too bothered about our request for Heidi to do her jobs – so very soon Heidi had lost lots of the skills that her previous staff had worked so hard on.
Heidi rarely had the same staff so had to get used to the different ways staff worked. There were communication issues caused by the staff not listening to us or Heidi.
The staff spent most of their shifts on their phones and all the exciting outings and socials with her neighbours that we had been promised did not materialize. The way XXX worked did not fit in with Heidi’s social life and often she had to return from her outings early, to fit in with the staff, rather than the other way round.
After a few months of working with XXX we were exhausted with constant battles and discussed alternatives with her social worker. The solution was for us to use Heidi’s direct payments to pay staff that I would employ to support her.
Heidi was fully involved in the interview process and the amazing Millie was employed, Millie was an Occupational Therapy student and she used all her OT skills to good effect. Heidi was fully involved in cooking, cleaning, shopping etc and systems put in place to help Heidi remember her independent living skills. For example: a schedule for housework, reminders to wash properly and clean teeth, things to check before you left the flat (Are high heels suitable for 6 inches of snow?)
More soon about how Millie and Heidi’s other staff support her and how I pay staff etc.