Share and Care Homeshare – providing affordable companionship and help

Share and Care Homeshare was established in 2006 to address a growing need for affordable companionship and practical help. Below is what inspired Caroline Cooke to launch this very helpful initiative.

When my father was diagnosed with dementia my mother was his primary carer, which left her feeling low, tired and isolated, despite the support of family and friends. Being his carer was a tiring role, particularly as his illness progressed. My mother did not want to leave him alone at home for more than brief periods. She became very restricted and had to rely on friends and family to come and visit her.

What she needed was not available through traditional channels, and she was on a limited budget too. This is when I recognised that having a live-in friend could really help. Not to become my father’s carer, but rather to give my mother moral support, conversation over mealtimes, some practical help around the house – especially when she was feeling tired herself. More importantly, a safe pair of hands who she could leave in charge while she went out for some much needed ‘me time’.

Having run a nanny agency previously, I started thinking along the lines of au pairs. However, I knew she needed a different type of person – someone more mature, with experience of running a home, perhaps a bit experienced in supporting someone and, ideally, someone with common interests.

I set up Share and Care Homeshare in 2006 as a way of providing this in an affordable way. Our sharers are typically working or studying. They are mature, usually aged 24-50 years, have usually been volunteers or supported a family member in the past. They are typically bright and educated with a variety of interests. Clear English is also essential in case of an emergency.

Share and Care Homeshare has supported many couples in similar situations to my parents over the years, as well as individuals of all ages who need a level of practical help and company, for whatever reason. Homeshare sits very nicely alongside other types of support. For some people having a sharer is just enough for them, but for other people a sharer may be part of a team – especially if they require personal care.

Homeshare works because it brings two people together with different sets of needs; both of whom have something to offer each other. It is largely a preventative option for older people, avoiding lengthy hospital stays or unnecessary care home placements, and instead supports older people to enjoy a fulfilling community-based living experience in their own homes for as long as possible.

How can social prescribers utilise homeshare initiatives?

Homeshare works alongside social prescribing, helping to relieve the impact of Covid-19 on communities, and the pandemic has sparked an increase in people using homeshare.

Collaboration between social prescribers and homeshare schemes can support whole communities and provide benefits for both young people and older people.  For instance, homeshare schemes are very effective means to support peoples’ health and wellbeing cost-effectively, in addition to reducing the strain on additional health and social care services such as A&E or respite services for instance.

Social prescribers signpost people to homeshare to support independent living for those within their communities, referring those who could benefit from the service quickly and easily; they can even encourage the self-referral route.  As a valuable community service, homeshare supports transformation, strengthening the future of social prescribing.

Who uses homeshare?

As homeshare is such a flexible option, it is used by a wide range of people with different needs.

  • Older people who live with mobility issues, sight and/or hearing loss, conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis.
  • Couples with one partner who is living with a long-term illness
  • Families who have children or young adults with physical disabilities or learning difficulties such as autism, ADHD or Down’s Syndrome
  • Adults with support needs such as autism, bipolar disorder, early onset Alzheimer’s, depression or anxiety

What are the benefits of homeshare?

Homeshare works because it brings two people together with different sets of needs; both of whom have something to offer each other.  It is largely a preventative option for older people, avoiding lengthy hospital stays or unnecessary care home placements, and instead supports older people to enjoy a fulfilling community-based living experience in their own homes for as long as possible.

How older people benefit through use of homeshare:

  • Reduces anxiety, increases confidence
  • Increases feelings of security
  • Alleviates loneliness & social isolation
  • Supports independent living
  • Reduces the risk of falls
  • Encourages self-worth
  • Provides practical help
    • Cooking and sharing mealtimes
    • Shopping
    • Help around the house
    • Technology & keeping in touch with family online
  • Reassurance for families
  • Early warning alerts from sharer if householder is ill

How younger people benefit through use of homeshare:

  • Provides companionship
  • Offers a family environment to live in
  • Encourages a sense of purpose
  • Provides the wealth of life experience of an older person
  • Affordable accommodation

Community Interest Company (CIC), Share and Care Homeshare is the largest and most experienced provider in the UK and offers a bespoke nationwide service. To develop a partnership between your social prescribing team and homeshare, contact Amanda Clarke on 020 3865 3398, email info@shareandcare.co.uk, or visit https://www.shareandcare.co.uk/social-prescriber-information

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Published 22nd February 2021

Caroline Cooke