In 2004 Stephen went to live in a
residential home run by New Prospects Association which is a private provider of
quality care for people with learning disabilities and complex physical and
health care needs in North Tyneside. Two other residents and Stephen lived there
together happily. Sadly, they are both deceased and now in 2007, Stephen shares
his home harmoniously with another gentleman.
Stephen was lucky to be given this
opportunity. Support staff enjoy working with him and all agree he is a great
character. We put together as much information as we could before he went:
written, verbal and photographic, describing his likes and dislikes and
behaviour patterns. His social worker put together a file detailing Stephen’s
health problems and medical and legal requirements. These and frequent short
visits gradually extending to longer stays made for a smooth transition so that
Stephen settled in comfortably. Documents, scrap books and photograph albums
recording Stephen’s life also went with him. Our house felt very empty without
him. But we were well prepared and, although we still miss him, he lives
close enough for us to visit whenever we want to.
After Stephen left us we began to get
used to the changes in our daily lives. Time was not our master any more.
Flexibility replaced regular routine. The washing machine was used less often. I
still enjoy the freedom from the daily chores of washing Stephen’s clothes and
bedding, cleaning his wheelchair and armchair, challenging protocols, procedures
and the people who enforced them, in a bid towards better understanding of
Stephen’s need and right to do things his way. But although these are some of
the things that made life difficult we still miss Stephen. We miss him for his
personality, his sense of fun and mischievous ways and his actual presence. He
could not verbalise his feelings and wants but his body language and expressive
eyes told it all.
There are plenty of opportunities to be
with him when his timetable allows and we spend time with him in his home or
take him out according to his and our fitness and the state of the weather. Most
imortantly though is that he has settled down well. His new carers have made
some changes to his lifestyle. They are very patient with him and sensitive to
his moods and requirements. One great improvement is his new motability vehicle
which has rear access for him in his wheelchair.
Retirement at last
It took time to get used to having time
to ourselves after 42 years of bringing up a family of five; and looking
after three of them plus our elderly parents who each had special needs,
behaviour problems and individual demands.
Stephen moved out in 2004 and we began
to look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle. The first four weeks after he left
were taken up with painting, papering and altering room furnishings which had
been arranged to suit Stephen’s physical environmental requirements. Changes
made were, demolishing the battered old fireguard, replacing old functional
furniture and bringing precious ornaments out to display. (And at last I got the
coffee table I’d always wanted). Then the garden needed attention. It had
suffered some neglect throughout the weeks of transition preparations followed
by a rapid spurt of spring growth while we were busy indoors.
RETIREMENT THREE YEARS ON
Gardening is now a pleasure not a
chore. Improvements made in the spring of 2006 included laying a paved patio
area. (Follow this link to see more pictures on my
blog). Everything can be done at our own pace. We relish the freedom to make
every day our own and to make each day count. Going for outings with Stephen is
difficult now, but we have found that we get more benefit from sitting with him
at home enjoying close contact and personal interaction. We are also better able
to be sociable with his care staff. Life is good.