Transforming walls and wellbeing
The mindful makeover that made life in lockdown liveable
Dan Hunt, 27, comes from a long line of carers in his family. Brought up in Tiverton from the age of 10, Dan went to college to study agricultural mechanics. That led on to a career working in a garage, followed by a stint as a delivery driver, six months working as an assistant in a care home, then back to life as a mechanic.
For him, life in the garage failed to fulfil. Something was missing. So, he took a part-time job working with Independent Living West Country, supporting its clients who live in their own homes and contend with mental health conditions. This was his calling; the missing part of the puzzle.
The simple truth is that Dan loves seeing the positive difference that he makes to the lives of those living with the daily struggles of mental health conditions. So, when the opportunity came to take up a full-time position, he downed his spanners and joined the Independent Living team of Support Workers.
“It’s an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding job,” says Dan. “My clients’ range in age from 18 to 89. They each have different mental health conditions, which makes the role fascinating.
“We always look for the level that works for the individual, thinking about what our clients want. We look at the person for who they are, rather than for their mental health condition, and that helps to build a trusting relationship. That allows us to understand our clients’ likes, dislikes and trigger points, which means we can work around these and make sure that they are happy, healthy and safe.
“We find a way of talking comfortably about their individual concerns and what’s going to help them most. In some cases, that might be ordering things in the house in a certain way to set them at ease and fit in with their routine. Others ask for trips out, support with shopping or certain foods. Whatever their need, be that helping with cleaning, keeping on top of paperwork or providing support with their benefits, we look at what we can arrange to help enrichen their lives.
“Typically, I see up to six regular clients each and every week, providing up to six hours of support a day in some cases. But I also assist with up to 20 others who require less help as they move on their journey towards a life of greater independence.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been really busy picking up medication, shopping, and making sure all our clients are well and safe. We’ve worked hard to encourage our clients to stay at home so that they remain shielded from Covid-19.
“As part of this service we’ve provided telephone support every day since the start of lockdown. Over time, we’ve introduced doorstep visits with social distancing and, for those that request it, we’re now making in-house visits, again with social distancing measures in place as a safety priority.
“It’s been challenging to keep some client indoors, while others have been extremely anxious at the thought of venturing out. Universally however, all have looked forward to their daily call, doorstep visit or socially distanced accompanied exercise. By understanding what our clients need, we are able to give them the support they require. For us, it’s all about putting our clients first.”
Recently, Dan took this ethos to a whole new level. One of his clients, David, likes nothing better than to pop out for coffee where he can people watch. Being a creature of habit, lockdown has curtailed this daily ritual, and it became clear over the phone that he was starting to feel very low as he was missing seeing people.
Recognising that action needed to be taken, Dan arranged to visit his David every day, taking him a cake, shopping and medication, and staying for a chat to relieve him of the temptation of going out. As a heavy smoker, susceptible to respiratory conditions, keeping David occupied became key to shield his health from the possible contraction of Covid-19.
Over the passing days, Dan could see that he was still struggling to cope, so to help break up the monotony, and to provide a new focus, Dan offered to brighten up the interior of his flat.
The freshen up in progress
Realising the he had some paint hanging around, David agreed to let Dan put a sample on the wall to see what it looked like.
Dan started by sugar soaping half of one of the nicotine stained walls, to see how his client - who struggles with change - felt about it. That went down well, so Dan then applied a coat of paint. Little by little the apartment, which hasn’t been decorated in 21 years, began to transform. One wall turned into a repainted ceiling, new curtains and a fresh lampshade.
Taken step-by-step, to ease the pace of change, the transformation in both the David’s mood and his surroundings has been truly astonishing. Within days he started to get involved, enthused by the difference, working on a wall on the opposite side of the room to maintain social distancing.
“When Dan suggested doing the place up, it came as a nice surprise ,” says David. “Dan’s a really good companion, and he’s helped me in so many ways. It’s been good to have his support, and the cake.
“For me, it’s been a really helpful process during lockdown, keeping me occupied. It’s made life easier to cope with, especially as I was at a little bit of a low before we began the project.
“I’ve got involved where I can, and now the flat is so much lighter and brighter. I can’t wait to show off the transformation to my friends, particularly the living room.”
David adds: “There’s still a bit more to do with the hallway and the bedroom, but I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. I expect others will be asking for similar help too.”
The redecoration process has not only served to brighten David’s disposition, but it’s made life in lockdown, which is so stressful for so many, manageable, even enjoyable, aiding David’s wellbeing and enthusiasm for life.
Given that the suggestion of renewing even an old and worn bathmat at the start of the pandemic was almost a step too far, the makeover has proved to be an ongoing revelation.
To date, the pair have completed the living room/kitchen and now they have their sights set on completing the hallway and the bathroom.
It’s all part of the unique and holistic service that Independent Living West Country offers to its clients, changing lives for the better and helping individuals on their path to greater independence.
If you would like to find out how Independent Living West Country can help you, a friend, family, client or patient, do please get in contact.
Working with private clients as well as those supported by the DWP and Devon County Council (DCC), we create tailored packages informed and approved by DCC Support Workers where appropriate. Designed to meet the precise needs of each individual, our packages of support are always built to help our clients on their journey towards greater independence.
You can find out more about our range of services here or simply call one of the team on 01392 467007.