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Giving a home to people who need a little support
CARING Sarah Menham redefines the meaning of a full house.
The 44-year-old, of Okus Road, shares her home with her husband Kev, her two sons aged 13 and 15, and three women with learning disabilites who each want to live independently but with support when they need it.
This week was National Learning Disability Week and Sarah is one of the everyday heroes who go out of their way to help others.
Among the three women who live with Sarah is Suzanne Sharpe, 38, who moved in just over a year ago after he mother fell ill with dementia and she needed a home where she could be part of a family yet live as independently as possible.
The Shared Lives Team, which is part of the SEQOL Community Team for People with Learning Disabilities, worked with Suzanne and her family to draw up a support plan, and now Suzanne lives with Sarah in the family home in Old Town where she learns skills such as cooking, cleaning, healthy eating and finance.
Members of the Shared Lives team support Suzanne and Sarah, so Suzanne can do the things she enjoys best and be quite independent.
Former care worker Sarah said: “My parents owned a care home and I developed a passion for caring. Our household now consists of three ladies with learning disabilities, me, my husband Kev, our two sons, a cat, a hamster and some chickens. They are all part of the family and it’s great having them around. They interact with the kids and they come on holiday with us. But I don’t dictate to them, they do what they want and I am here to support them around the clock.
“When Suzanne joined us she wasn’t used to exercise or eating healthily, but with help she has learned how to enjoy fruit and vegetables, and loves exercise now. To keep active she walks several miles to see her mum in hospital three times a week, goes swimming and exercises with Wendy of SEQOL, and plays sport with friends at OK4U. In a year she has lost six stone.
“She has also gained a lot of confidence and skills, made new friends and has done lots of things she could not have done before. She’s a young woman of 38 and she’s doing everything a young woman should be doing.
“The SEQOL Shared Lives Service have been fantastic, they are very supportive and Suzanne’s doing brilliantly.”
Suzanne spends some time at SEQOL’s OK4U – where she can meet up with her friends and take part in leisure activities such as swimming, while she is helped by the community team, which assess people with learning disabilities – as well as some younger adults with physical disabilities – and work with them and their families and draw up a bespoke support plan.
Suzanne said: “I love living here. I like watching TV and going on the computer, and I love going swimming. I enjoy going to OK4U too.
“I’m excited, because Sarah is taking me to Turkey and we’re going to swim with dolphins. I saw that once on TV and I’ve always wanted to do it myself.”
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