Unsung heroes who share their lives with those who need care

If you’re looking for unsung heroes in Oxfordshire then you could do worse than read the story of Lindsay Howard-Dean and her mum Rosemary who share their daily home lives with people who need to be cared for.

Lindsay, 35, has been part of the county council’s Shared Lives scheme for more than a decade and shares her home at Christmas Common in the Chilterns with Mark who has a mild learning disability and Claire who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability and who came to live with them when her mother passed away.

Both Lindsay, known as Lins, and Rosemary were recently “highly commended” for their work at the Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers annual awards. They are one of around 80 shared lives carers who accommodate and care for people with care needs in their own home as part of the household.

“Both Mark and Claire need support and a happy place to live, they are part of our family at our farm in Christmas Common. My mother Rosemary, who still helps out even though she’s retired, was a Shared Lives Carer for twenty years before I became their main Carer.”

“In the mornings I get up and help Claire get up washed, ready and breakfasted and I help Mark plan his day. He’s recently taken early retirement so he’s often off into town. He’s got an active social life and we plan his timings, transport and offer emotional support. Then I go about my day as a farmer, facilitator of animal assisted learning and being a mum.”

“Claire spends time with us on the farm. She enjoys the company of the animals – we’ve got sheep, cows, horses and donkeys and at this lovely time of year in Spring we also have lambs. She also attends day services.”

“I home educate my son Orson and so on a daily basis we really are an extended happy family. Mark and Claire and effectively an extra uncle and aunt for Orson.”

“Everybody is aware of fostering but not as many people know about the Shared Lives scheme – caring for adults under your own roof”, said Lins, whose husband Tim works as an engineer in Witney, farmer and Shared Lives Carer.

“I’m sure there are people out there who’d be interested in Shared Lives if only they knew more. It is very much a vocation. It gives you a bigger family. I’ve grown up with Claire and Mark and they are part of our family. It enriches our lives too & helps educate Orson to the challenges that people face in life.”

“People do want to give back. As well as having a careers we are able to do Shared Lives. Enabling people’s lives while they live under your own roof is incredibly rewarding. It gives people a new perspective on how lucky they are and the sharing aspect is very humbling. I’d strongly recommend it.”

More detail about shared lives

The Shared Lives service is open to anyone who has been assessed under the Care Act (2014) and referred by an Oxfordshire County Council social worker or care co-ordinator. The scheme will match users with a suitable Shared Lives carer.

Service users stay in the Shared Lives carer’s home – whether this be for a designated number of nights a week/month or as part of a permanent long-term arrangement.

If you feel inspired by Lins’s story and would like to find out more about becoming a paid Shared Lives Carer then call the Shared Lives Team on 01865 897971 or visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives.