Banbury resident with lifelong love for care supports county residents with additional needs

Linda Carnie has spent decades caring for children and adults and is keen to recommend a scheme that has seen hundreds of other people sharing their family and community life with someone who needs support.

A lifelong carer of both children and adults, Linda Carnie, 71, joined Shared Lives to support adults with additional needs over 17 years ago – and has since kept in touch with nearly every individual she’s welcomed into her home through the scheme.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Shared Lives matches people who need additional support to be independent and live on their own, with carers and their families.

Linda initially joined as a short-term carer, enabling individuals to stay for a change of scenery, in the event of an urgent care need, or if their longer-term carers required time away. But after a knee surgery encouraged her to take a step back from her work with children, Linda decided to shift her role to offer a more permanent home for those with additional needs.

“Starting on a short-term basis meant I could give Shared Lives a try without worrying about committing to too much too soon,” said Linda, speaking about her decision to join the scheme. “I loved it right away. It was fulfilling and I chose the hours which suited me around my work.”

“Working with children was wonderful but I couldn’t run after them forever,” said Linda. “So when I fully retired 12 years ago, I knew that becoming a long-term carer was right for me. I didn’t know how much of an adjustment it would be but it wasn’t much of a change at all.”

The Banbury area resident has welcomed a large number of people with additional needs to her home, some staying with her for as long as seven or eight years, and most of whom she has remained close with.

“It’s so easy to build a bond and I still love staying in touch with anyone who’s come to my home over the years. You end up getting far more than you put in – I don’t have any plans to leave the scheme any time soon!”

After nearly two decades spent as a Shared Lives carer, Linda shares her experience of the county council run initiative and how those she supports have become “part of the family”.

Short-term to long-term caring

For many years, Linda’s home had been bustling with her own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as individuals from Shared Lives staying short-term. But as her children grew up and moved further afield, and Linda decided to fully retire, she soon saw the potential for the growing space in her house.

With more than one spare room available, Linda knew she had the opportunity to strike the right balance for those with additional needs on a more permanent basis, offering privacy and independence, support and company.

In fact, many individuals who are offered additional support through Shared Lives have a job or volunteer work or attend a day service near where they live. Carers are there to encourage this independence wherever possible.

“One of the individuals living with me permanently would never go on the bus alone. One day an opportunity presented itself and she decided to take the leap!” Linda proudly recalled, continuing, “she has her phone on her and can always call me or text me if there’s an issue – but to this day, she never has.”

A supportive community

Linda has been with Shared Lives for close to two decades but says the connection amongst carers and managers has grown recently. During lockdown carers were able to join regular calls and virtual get-togethers to ensure the line of communication, and support, was as strong as ever.

“Everyone in our home got on very well during the lockdowns but the video chats with other carers still made a huge difference,” Linda said. “My Shared Lives manager would call to make sure everything was going well, and to check there were no challenges. Knowing I had someone to call right away if I needed to was fantastic.”

Many carers in the scheme have one individual with them at the time but Linda has been able to accept two, and she loves the diversity. Her younger resident enjoys a volunteering role, regular attendance to a day centre and time alone in her room. The elder of the individuals will often join Linda for trips out – including a recent celebration.

“I went out with my friends for an early Christmas lunch, and when one of the ladies living with me decided she wanted to come along I thought she might be shy or struggle with the interaction,” said Linda. But it was quite the opposite. “She didn’t have any trouble making conversation, and told me she would love to join us another time.”

Always caring

Joining Shared Lives certainly hasn’t stopped Linda from enjoying her family time regularly, and she has continued to take care of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. And it’s clear that Linda has always had a strong caring trait.

“My brother said to me recently that he couldn’t remember a time I wasn’t taking care of others. First it was my younger siblings, then my own children and grandchildren – and now others who have joined my family through Shared Lives. It’s fulfilling and rewarding in every way.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Shared Lives scheme and how you can get involved, please visit Oxfordshire County Council’s website: oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives.

For more information about this release contact the Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council communications team on 01865 323870 or email press.office@oxfordshire.gov.uk


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