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Edward, Neil, Christine and Stephen

Shared Lives

Christine and Stephen have been nurturing people through Shared Lives for over thirty years. Since welcoming Edward into their home in 1997 and Neil in 1999, both on a long-term basis, they have enjoyed many holidays, days out and hobbies. Together they have created an abundance of wonderful memories which they will remember forever.
Edward, Neil, Christine, Stephen & Gemma at the Grand Canyon
Edward at the Grand Canyon

Before welcoming Edward and Neil into their home, Christine and Stephen had already tried Shared Lives on a short-term basis by offering respite care. However, their family dynamics shifted with the arrival of their daughter, Gemma. Although they were eager to continue with Shared Lives, they needed a new arrangement that would intertwine with the beginning of a new chapter for them.

When they were first introduced to Edward; they initially held some reservations due to his blindness. Christine and Stephen thought this could be challenging with a growing baby. However, it never seemed to be a problem, and it didn’t take long until Edward became an integral part of their family. Neil's arrival, just a few years later, further enriched their lives, cementing life-long bonds.

The family has shared many memorable holidays, from late-night strolls through Vegas to awe-inspiring visits to the Grand Canyon, capped off with an exhilarating helicopter tour. Stephen reflects on how these moments make all the effort that can come with being a Shared Lives carer worthwhile. While in Vegas, Edward and Neil thoroughly enjoyed petting and taking photographs with some dolphins. Neither of them had done anything like this before and it was a moment of pure joy, so much so that they spent most of it belly-laughing.

Holidaying for some Shared Lives families can be challenging, as there is an extra need to ensure everyone's comfort, manage their medications, and ensure support is available with daily tasks. But Stephen reflected on moments like visiting the dolphins, where Edward and Neil encounter something so unique and exciting. These are experiences that likely wouldn't have been accessible without Shared Lives, making the additional effort of going on holiday as a Shared Lives carer truly worthwhile.

Stephen recalls that both Edward and Neil are so different, “they’re like chalk and cheese”. Neil's infectious zest for life is often manifested in his love for Christmas, Tom Jones, and food, he infuses their home with a sense of jubilance.

"The most memorable moments are when we see Edward and Neil really enjoying themselves, like when they had a session with the dolphins in Vegas. It's what makes it all worth it”

Christine (Shared Lives carer)

When Neil first started living with Christine and Stephen, he had quite poor dietary habits but over the years Christine and Stephen slowly introduced him to a healthier diet which has led to a more fulfilling life with more energy to do the things he loves.

"It wasn't always smooth sailing with Neil. He really struggled when he first arrived, but over the years, we helped him settle into the home and improve his diet. Now, his life is so fulfilling"

Stephen (Shared Lives carer)

Edward, on the other hand, seamlessly integrated into their family. Despite his blindness, he has never allowed himself to be limited by his condition. Edward embraces life with an unyielding spirit, finding joy in every experience. His bond with Stephen deepened through their mutual passion for Formula One. Stephen fondly recalls a moment at a Formula One race when Edward's heightened senses astounded him. Even before the cars started racing, Edward could feel the engines' vibrations through his seat—a sensation that left Stephen amazed, even after years of companionship with Edward.

Edward’s hobbies extend beyond Formula One; he loves to travel and explore new places. Although he cannot see, he immerses himself fully in the world around him, attuned to the sounds, scents, and tactile sensations of each location. Recognising Edward's love for adventure, Christine and Stephen prioritise opportunities for him to travel each year.

Gemma, Christine and Stephen’s daughter was also a big part of Edward and Neil’s life, she has always been around them since she was a baby. Having grown up with Edward and Neil, she has now entered the health and social care world. She has a role that supports adults with learning disabilities, just like her parents, and she thoroughly enjoys a caring role.

Christine, Stephen, Edward and Neil still enjoy an exciting life together as they regularly visit Spain in the summer and have plans to visit Germany on the Rhine River Cruise, where they will visit five different Christmas markets. Theirs is not just a story of caregiving, but it shows us how beautiful Shared Lives can be when it works, it can lead to a fulfilling life for everyone involved.

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