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James’ journey to independence!

James joined Westwood House, a residential care home in Wiltshire, in 2016 when he was just 19 years old. It was meant to be a six-week respite but the positive change he felt in that short amount of time led to a decision to stay. Here we revisit his journey.

In 2016, James had been in a mental health facility for two months. He had been living at home with his mum and attending the local college for his horticultural qualification. Being quiet and timid, he was reliant on his mum to speak for him and had a lot of anxiety. When he came to stay at Westwood House for respite, he struggled to cope with the new surroundings, people and communicating. It was also around this time that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism, so his medication changed too.

This huge amount of change was scary, and the staff understood how this could lead to challenging behaviour. They listened to James and went at his own pace so he could feel more comfortable. James likes a stable environment so for the entire time he’s been at Westwood House, he had the same support team. This team are particularly skilled to support people with complex behavioural and mental health needs. Because of this, they worked with James to help understand what autism meant to him, and what his needs and likes are.

Managing emotions

As James can get quite frustrated at times, the team worked with him to learn how to manage these feelings. This included introducing a traffic light system to help identify triggers so he can remove himself from the situation until he feels calm enough to talk about his emotions.

Before long, James got to know the team and residents. He became less shy and more confident and would chat to everyone. According to James, one of the best things about moving to a residential care home is the friends he’s made and how they have the same conditions too.

Becoming independent

With consistent, positive support, James started to do more things by himself. Now, he independently takes two buses each week to go to his day centre on a Tuesday. On a Monday and Wednesday, he attends social clubs with a disco.  At the weekend he will play a weekly game of football and attend an arts and crafts group – he’s never been so busy! When James first started going to his weekly disco, he didn’t have the confidence to go on the dance floor. Now, you can’t get him off the dance floor and he enjoys dancing the night away!

Since being at Westwood House, he has learnt a lot of valuable life skills. Such as, managing some of his own money, making meals for himself and the household, cleaning his room and doing his own laundry (even if sometimes he needs a gentle nudge from the staff!).

He has also focused on completing several SAM courses at the local college. These courses are specifically designed for students returning to education. The staff attended the first few classes with him, but James quickly gained confidence to make new friends and attend by himself. He has now passed his SAM courses for cooking, food safety, food hygiene, English and maths, first aid and online safety in computer studies.

Part of the journey

Of course, there are still difficult times on this journey. At the being of this year, James was sectioned again. Due to his bespoke dual support plan, his team knew how to best help James depending on when he is well or unwell. This means the staff continued to visit him in hospital and provide active support. They worked with his community support team, planning for his return home.

One of the triggers for James is linked to worrying about his family. This can lead to James not eating or drinking. Because of this, a part of his support plan includes providing support to his mum. So, she can understand James’ needs. The staff are in regular contact with mum and have open communication. Since living at Westwood House, James feels that his relationship with his mum has never been better. He doesn’t rely on her as much anymore as his independent living skills have improved. They meet up a few times each week and always have fun and spend quality time together!

A bright future

With a committed team to support James, the future is looking bright. When asked, James is looking forward to getting work experience, hopefully around cats or dogs.

Westwood House is a residential care home located in a beautiful part of Swindon, Wiltshire. Here, they provide support for up to ten people with learning disabilities, dual diagnoses and mental health needs. Westwood House is currently looking for a housemate to join their home. If you are looking to develop your independence living skills in a positive, supportive environment then click here to find out more.

Please note: This article is about events that happened before the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the safety measures based on government advice during that specific time period. Please be assured that at all times, Voyage Care follows the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures to keep our staff and the people we support safe. To find out more about our COVID-19 safety precautions, please visit our COVID-19 resource area.

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