Joanne has been a Local Service Manager with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland for several years and her role involves leading a team and supporting the residents in achieving their dream. For all of them, it’s about becoming independent. Joanne leads a very busy service in Clarecastle, which involves two assisted living houses, four independent living bungalows and a community service.
While it can be challenging at times, she is very passionate about her role and the support they offer. It is important for so many reasons. Read Joanne’s story below.
I believe the aim of Anvers Housing is to enable brain injury survivors to live as independently as possible, but still have all of the support they need available to them. In the houses, each resident has a personal programme to follow and we encourage any activities that strengthen their independence. These activities can often include ‘activities of daily life’, but we ensure that they are also fun and meaningful. For example, one of our residents is a carpenter so we arrange for him to have the tools he needs to continue his passion. If we have someone who has worked in horticulture and enjoys it, then we will get them involved in the garden. It is about ensuring our residents can continue to do the things they love and giving them purpose and a choice. That’s what’s so important to a lot of survivors, being able to make their own choices, their own decisions.
A huge part of my role is ensuring that all of our residents have support. We offer 24/7 support to whoever needs it and we’re always there for our residents. They know they can lean on us if they need to and that gives them valuable reassurance. They always have autonomy in the house, but we are there to support their independence and offer a helping hand when needed.
Compared to the bungalows, the support in the group houses can be a bit more intense but it is all about empowering the residents to live their lives however they want. Since the day I started, this has been a key factor in my mind. I always think of the Acquired Brain injury Ireland values and how we can apply these. We support our residents to make their own choices, create meaningful relationships and respect others. The values always tie into their personal rehabilitation goals.
The houses at Clarecastle are busy environments but we always try to ensure they are as calm as possible because the atmosphere can impact the residents. We have a very open policy within the houses. We communicate openly with each of the residents, and they know they can always come to us to chat and offload. A great part about these houses is most residents get on well with each other and we have a lot of fun together. On the rare occasion someone doesn’t get along with another resident, we try to use it as a way to work on essential skills, such as problem-solving and social skills. We are always looking for ways to incorporate learning, not just for our residents, but for ourselves too. It’s important we are learning and developing, so we can provide the best support possible to our residents and make the house their home.
Clarecastle doesn’t just provide essential support for residents – it also allows them to be part of a close knit community. This is so important because community creates a sense of belonging. The shops, credit union and restaurants are all just a five-minute walk from the houses and we all know each other, which is lovely.
All of the houses are fully accessible so that any brain injury survivor can live there. We also have a combination of private spaces and shared communal space. This is especially important when families come to visit. While we encourage everyone to communicate and socialise, we do understand the importance of privacy and our residents should always be entitled to that. All of the houses are always open to visitors, so our residents can see family and friends whenever they want. This adds to the feeling of living independently.
For those who move out of the group houses to live independently in our bungalows, they may still rely on us in the beginning. But little by little, they start calling less. We may have to cook for them at the start, and then we find they’re cooking for themselves. They don’t need us to do their shopping anymore. When they do call, it’s more for social reasons. We are only up the road so they always have access to us. We can be there for them but they know they live independent lives.
One of the things I find most rewarding about my work at Clarecastle is seeing our residents grow and gain more independence. When people are moving on from living with us, to go to their families, the bungalows or back to their home town, it feels wonderful and I get a great kick out of it. To date, we have moved 15 people back from assisted living to their own independent living spaces. It just shows how our work has allowed our residents to progress and gain enough confidence and independence to move on with their lives. That is such a nice feeling.
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