A HOME FROM HOME Carmel Delaney is pictured with Aisling Hughes, who is taking part in the Home Share programme.
Opening up your home to a person with an intellectual disability can be mutually rewarding
Since opening up their home to Carmel Delaney as part of the Western Care’s Home Share service two years ago, Aisling Hughes and her husband John have no hesitation in saying that Carmel has become very much part of the family.
“All my family adore her, and when they ring me they all want to speak to Carmel as well. Before lockdown, when I would visit my parents, Carmel would always come with me and she feels like part of the family now,” Aisling told The Mayo News.
Aisling works in Western Care’s Centre in Claremorris, and she had worked with Carmel, who has Down’s Syndrome, for five years prior to her signing up to the Home Share service after the death of Carmel’s mother. Aisling felt that taking Carmel, who is 52 years of age, for some time at the weekends would provide respite for the rest of her family.
“I take Carmel home with me on Friday or Saturday evening, and she partakes in the same activities I do myself and gets involved in my routine. We go for walks, shopping, to the cinema and Carmel will be involved. She fits into my life rather than the other way around.
“I look forward to the weekends especially now during lockdown because it is enjoyable to have company. I know Carmel enjoys it … it is a break from everything. We can watch a film together and do things around the house. We have a good laugh together, and it is nice to have someone to chat to and company, on both sides.”
Aisling is one of 35 Home Share providers in Mayo who have opened up their homes to a person with an intellectual disability. Home Share providers have operated in Mayo since 1985, and Western Care has launched a new recruitment campaign to try to increase the number of Home Share providers to deal with the ever-growing demand for the service.
“Our waiting list for children is at 35 and growing and our adult is at 32, so we are looking for 69 more placements. It [service] is in demand especially now during Covid,” explained Erin Scott, a social worker with the Home Share service.
Erin explained the Home Share is open to all types of households, from young families to retirees to single people, and they will work around the hours and the needs of the providers. She explained that after they assess the candidates they identify a suitable match based on the needs of both the service user and the provider. Once matched, she says, a bond grows between the user and the provider.
“We have one family who started doing it 20 years ago but at weekends only, and that increased to taking the person Monday to Friday. Overtime, that user’s parents passed away and that person is now full time with the Home Share family rather than going into a residential centre. The Home Share dad died a couple of years ago, but the mom said she was keeping her. That is the kind of level of commitment some people end up giving. It is an amazing service, and the service users love it.”
Younger service users
Erin added that a number of young families also get involved in providing a service for young children, and it is beneficial for everyone involved.
“We have a lady who has a child with autism, who told me her youngest daughter has never been to the cinema. She said she could never get a break and this is why she wants home sharing, so it will allow her to bring her seven year-old out to do the things you would normally do with your child.
“Studies also show that young people who grow up in a home with someone with extra needs grow up to be more empathetic adults. They become more understanding and have a greater ability to manage difficult situations when they’re adults.”
The current Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns has resulted in the service being limited, as some families have not been able to continue, and Erin said this has increased the stress of families unable to get respite.
“Some children with disabilities enjoy a routine and they can get very upset, and even aggressive, if that is disrupted. I think this must be so difficult for parents and siblings to manage on a daily basis.”
There are different types of Home Share provider arrangements to meet the needs of the provider, and providers also receive a tax-free payment and expenses as well as training. One of the stumbling blocks that Erin meets is attracting providers is a lack of understanding about disabilities and a perceived burden of responsibility.
“We wouldn’t place the provider with someone with higher needs unless they were confident they could take on that responsibility. You get such a range of disabilities, so with home sharing, unless you have prior experience, we generally match you with someone who is quite able,” she said.
Aisling says anyone thinking of becoming a Home Share provider should contact existing providers for their advice, but it is something she highly recommends.
“At the beginning you don’t know what you are getting yourself in for but after a couple of weeks you get so used to it, it becomes second nature. I would highly recommend it … it is a really enjoyable experience and it is good for you and the person you are working with. You feel good by helping people out, but we also have good fun together which is also another part of it.”
For more information on Home Share services phone 094 9029100.