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Supporting older people with learning disabilities and their families
Supporting older people with learning disabilities and their families

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2 Supporting Becky to live well

The researchers who spent time with Becky noticed that many of the staff who support her at the day service have a really good understanding of what she likes doing. They also know how to help Becky if a situation arises that might cause her to become upset.

Activity 2 Driving for hot chocolate

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Listen to Becky’s mum Sharon talking about what the staff at the day centre do well.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: gopa_2_mary_larkin_extract_1.mp3
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Now read the field notes that the researcher made after visiting Becky for the second time:

Becky is supported by Anne today. Anne comes over and signals to the car we are going in. Apparently, we are on our way to a coffee shop that opened recently. I ask Anne how long she has known Becky and she says it’s been ‘good few years’ ... She says people often come to her to ask about Becky, cause of how long and how well she knows her. Anne then says Becky likes people watching, that’s what they often do, go for coffee or hot chocolate and Becky is happy to hang out and just watch the world move by. I ask if they often go with others, as there is another person and their support worker joining us today. Anne says Becky likes company and that it’s ‘good for her’ and she tries to arrange for other people to join when possible... I ask about the schedule that Becky is on, Anne says she or any of the two other people who support Becky pick her up at 9:30 am and bring her home at 3:30 pm. Monday to Friday. I think about the number of hours Becky spends in the car, being shuttled around and if driving 30 mins to get hot chocolate is that much fun (…) In the car, Becky is looking out of the window... She looks content and says ‘chair’ every now and again, Anne says it’s the word she says when she feels good. Anne asks Becky what she will have (it’s ‘choc-choc’ for hot chocolate and ‘jug’ for coffee, she explains to us). Becky says choc-choc without a moment of hesitation... I ask Anne if they ever go to different places. She says they often do. Becky likes being by the water, so they go to the river, or to the coast, she tells us. Last time they went to [coastal town] and had a picnic on the beach. Anne says Becky loved it. In the car, on the way back Becky is looking out of the window. ‘She likes going on drives’ Anne says. It’s a lovely, sunny day and the views are nice. Green, open spaces, fields, towns. I just can’t help to think it’s a lot of driving for a cup of hot chocolate.

Make some notes about the positive aspects practised you have picked up from these extracts. Also, does anything strike you as problematic?

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It’s clear that Becky is receiving consistent support from people she likes, who know her well. There are good examples in these extracts of Becky being supported to do the things that make her happy, and reduce her sense of stress. However, there are elements within these extracts that may raise further questions that need to be explored. For example, you might have noted from the vignette that Becky is overweight. To what extent is Becky involved in decisions about the activities she does, especially how much time she spends being driven in the car, versus being more active, and walking? How are the staff balancing what Becky likes to do with keeping her healthy as she gets older?

This activity has highlighted that even when somebody appears to be being well supported, it is important that practitioners reflect upon what could be improved, and whether people’s routines and support need to be adapted as they get older.