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How homeshare transforms the lives of people with dementia and poor mobility

Pressure is mounting to tackle at home care needs for those who need it most. Caroline Cooke, director of community interest company, Share and Care Homeshare, explains providing more homeshares for patients could be the key for success. 

Homeshare is a well-established support model that has demonstrated its value in helping achieve better outcomes for older people for more than 40 years. Even though homeshare has transformed the lives of thousands of people and their families over the decades, the concept has not yet made it onto the radar of all adult social care professionals; and this is something that members of the Homeshare Association seek to change.  

Homesharing is a straight-forward concept – younger people (sharers) who need an affordable place to live, reside with older people (householders) who have a spare room and would benefit from day-to-day support around the home. 

As a means of preventative support, homeshare is a solution that addresses some of the challenges in social care. It’s a vital component in the bid to help people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, yet the full merit that initiatives of this type deliver has not been wholly realised. 

Homeshare fits seamlessly into social care. It’s as simple as signposting older people to the service, and as homeshare is not a care role per se, personal care packages are often put in place to run alongside homesharing arrangements, enabling people to benefit from both the practical support and companionship from a sharer, as well as any required assistance from a domiciliary carer.

Whilst it is not exclusive to people living with dementia or mobility issues, homeshare delivers significant benefits for this group; Share and Care’s 2024 Report reveals that 29% of householders in a homeshare arrangement live with dementia, and 30% have poor mobility.  

A better alternative

A dementia diagnosis or limited mobility do not mean that people have to forfeit independent living. A move to a care home, or having live-in carers, is not always appropriate. As well as being costly, those options may be unsuitable at that point in time.

As an alternative, in many instances homeshare may be a better choice, facilitating safe, independent living. Additionally, as a sharer will build a relationship their householder and have an understanding of their dementia diagnosis, they are therefore able to provide a level of reassurance to the person who they homeshare with, and peace-of-mind for their families.  

Runs simultaneously with care packages

Homeshare is incredibly flexible. It works just as smoothly as a stand-alone arrangement as it does in conjunction with a personal care package, and many older people in homeshare arrangements also have carers coming into their home on a daily basis. 

Unobtrusive support around the home

People living with dementia can often be inclined to refuse help, but the support sharers provide can be considered ‘under the radar’ and, as such, householders are generally more accepting of it.

Low-key help from sharers with daily tasks around the home is less intrusive than other support arrangements. It also enables people with dementia to continue living independently and follow their daily routines in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home.

Sharers commonly pledge around 15 hours of support per week, although the reality is that most do not clock-watch their time. An extra pair of hands, in the form of companionship and help with practical tasks, can be a life-line for many older people – anything from preparing a healthy supper and help with opening jars or packaging, to taking out the bins and picking up the weekly groceries.

Another important element to the support is that sharers can provide prompts and reminders, such as to take medication, what activities are scheduled in the diary, or ensuring that food and drink is still within use-by dates, as well as assistance with locating misplaced items.

Friendship & companionship

Loneliness and isolation is a real challenge. Maintaining social contact is beneficial in so many ways and homesharing lays the foundations for companionship and meaningful friendships.

For some people living with dementia, introducing someone they do not know into the home can be unsettling. Therefore, sharers often move in on the understanding that they are a friend of the family. They give their support in the manner of a friend, which makes accepting help much easier.

two women and man walking in the street during daytime

A further advantage is that sharers and householders are carefully matched for similar interests, and this results in strong, life-long friendships which can be of great comfort. Shared interests can also help evoke past memories for people with dementia.

Circle of support

The circle of support that homeshare bestows means that everyone involved in the arrangement benefits.

For instance, householders living with dementia or limited mobility are supporting their sharer which can feel very rewarding and provide them with a real sense of purpose and ‘giving-back’. By offering a sharer with a home to live in, they are providing a younger person with affordable accommodation in an area in which they want to live but may be priced out of by high rents. Older people are also sharing their companionship and life experiences, and vice versa, which is invaluable insight into the lives of people from a different generation.

As sharers sleep in the home overnight, as well as being in the home at certain times throughout the day, homeshare provides the householder with a sense of safety and security which is reassuring for older people.

Couples and individuals

Whether people are living in their home alone ,or as a couple, homeshare works effectively in both situations.

In the instance of a couple, there may be a situation where one partner has been diagnosed with dementia. It may be that the person with dementia needs some practical support, while the other partner may benefit more from the moral support of a sharer or the ability to free up some of their time to focus on other things, or to be able to go on an outing knowing that their partner has the company and reassurance of the sharer while they are out.

Equally, if a couple or an individual would prefer two sharers to live in the home, as long as there are sufficient bedrooms, that is also an option. The benefit of this is that householders gain double the practical support for the same low cost.  

Homeshare is a very low cost model of support and can be paid for out of Attendance Allowance.  

Images: Caroline Cook and Philippe Leone

More features:

Carers Week: Meet the coordinators bringing laughter into UK care homes

UK Care Week 2024: Five councils that are taking part

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