The road back to independence

Heading for the light at the end of the tunnel…

The team at the Upstreet Project (Elizabeth House or next door in Artichoak Cottage) provide specialist care and support for people. Most of the people currently living in this community have been diagnosed with Korsakoff’s Syndrome or a related form of brain damage and have – at least  temporarily – lost the ability to cope independently. People join us once they have been medically stabilised (although occasionally we support people to detox here with the support from the local GP) and then collectively we do our best to help people to get their lives back together. We have developed an holistic approach, focusing on good nutrition, exercise and developing healthier habits. We have a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and illegal drugs and so the whole community is supported to remain abstinent, giving everyone the best chance at a new start.

We use re-ablement techniques to work towards rehabilitation with each and every person, regardless of their initial ability. This gives everyone the optimism that there is something to look forward to and this is vitally B-playing-guitarimportant for a person’s mental wellbeing. The reality may be that a person will need help with some things for the rest of his or her life, but we work towards developing coping strategies with each person so that independence is maintained and maximised wherever possible.

Each person is supported individually to write and develop their own plans of care and support. Goals are set by people and a plan agreed for how – as a team – we are going to get there.  For many of the people we support, drinking had become their whole life and we encourage people to replace this habit with a wide range of activities and plenty of outings to broaden horizons and develop other pastimes.

There are beautiful gardens across all sites and everyone is encouraged to participate and take responsibility for this space. We believe that the process of growing plants and vegetables from seed is very therapeutic. At Artichoak Cottage people are supported to maintain vegetable beds as well as grow flowers so the kitchens are supplied throughout the summer. Until COVID-19, some of the people we support also volunteered several times a week at a local horticultural project. We are slowly returning to normal.

Our team coaches, encourages and enables our clients with development of work-based skills, life skills development including numeracy and literacy, as well as personal development including fitness.

We have multiple PCs and laptops available to our clients and we coach computer literacy in all forms, from using Facebook and other social networking sites, to using Skype to stay in touch with family. There is also wired broadband access throughout both homes for clients with their own computer equipment.

Most of the people we support state that they would eventually like to return to the wider community and be living more independently. As a result of this, our balance of activities and practising of work-based skills reflects this. We are continually investing in facilities to meet our clients’ needs.

People here are encouraged to take plenty of exercise and work on their coordination skills. In addition to dance and exercise classes on site each week, many of the people we support also choose to go out for an afternoon walk every day, accompanied by staff and sometimes staff dogs too! These days we do this very carefully, to places where there are no people.

Work-based skills development with the team at The Upstreet Project ranges from painting and decorating, DIY, gardening, catering and kitchen skills to renovating furniture.

We encourage everyone to keep exercising their grey matter – from board games to prepared debates, chess to crosswords – it’s good to keep your brain moving.

We also offer a full and complete rehabilitation programme for people who are ready to move out of The Upstreet Project and back into independent or supported living accommodation. Artichoak Cottage is designed for people who are ready to be more independent but wish to remain part of our extended community until they are ready to go back to their own home or on into other accommodation.

One of the clients at Elizabeth House making sausage rolls in the kitchen.

Life skills development covers issues such as budgeting and planning, shopping (pre-COVID) and personal care. We encourage everyone we support to take responsibility for keeping their own rooms clean and tidy, do their own laundry and ironing if possible, and participating in community household duties such as helping in the kitchen. There are regular independent as well as escorted shopping trips into Canterbury and to supermarkets. Using the internet or going in person, even the people we support who face the greatest challenges with their memory and sequencing skills can make their own choices regarding clothing and footwear as well as choose their own treats and snacks.

There are several in-house sessions to help people improve their numeracy and literacy. These range from Book Group meetings to Current Affairs debating and discussion with extracts from newspapers, Scrabble tournaments, interactive group budgeting exercises and basic literacy sessions. People are also supported to attend classes and activity groups outside the home, some of which also reinforce these skills.

Our planning and budgeting sessions are very interactive and people are strongly encouraged to contribute in as many ways as they feel able.

Reading the paper

We aim to help everyone develop or relearn living skills that will support them if and when they return to more independent living. Current clients who for various reasons are less likely to live independently in the future also find these exercises very stimulating and our budgeting and planning sessions often lead to healthy debate about lifestyle choices and the economy as a whole.

However, it’s not all work either and people here have a full social schedule as well. Long term alcohol abuse can often lead to social withdrawal so we encourage everyone to be part of the in-house community as well as to make friends outside of the home. COVID-19 has obviously made that more challenging, but we have become very creative about assisting people with staying in touch with, or getting back in contact with, their families and old friends.

Arts & Crafts sessions mean that our clients are involved in a variety of projects; painting, creating collages and mosaics, making jewellery and a wide variety of other projects. Many of our clients find this very relaxing and therapeutic.

Our Client Development programme is constantly evolving to meet the personal development needs of each of our clients. If you would like to know more about Elizabeth House and Artichoak Cottage and whether we might be able to help you, your relative or your client, please click here.