Hannah* has just moved into a new flat and, like any young woman, is enjoying creating a home she can be proud of. But the journey to living independently in the community hasn’t always been easy for Hannah, who is profoundly Deaf.
When Hannah came to live at SignHealth’s Polestar home, she was angry, frustrated, and often depressed. While she’d enjoyed her time at mainstream school, she began to lose confidence after moving away to attend college:
“After a fortnight, I knew I was in the wrong place’ she admits. ‘I realised I lacked some basic skills; I didn’t know how to cook or use a washing machine. There was no support and everything was very confusing. I felt miserable and deflated.”
Facing so many barriers took its toll on Hannah, who became short-tempered and frequently weepy. A move into a supported environment nearer home was similarly frustrating. The home was aimed at individuals with more complex needs than Hannah’s. A high turnover of agency staff, who didn’t use BSL, meant Hannah felt isolated and unable to communicate her needs. Hannah’s depression deepened and eventually she approached her social worker for help.
The social worker did some research and suggested Polestar to Hannah. Polestar is a purpose-built registered care home in Birmingham, run on the supported living model. Located in a quiet residential area, each of the two-bedroom flats has its own bathroom, open-plan kitchen and living/dining room. This encourages residents to pursue an independent lifestyle, giving them the chance to host family and friends and to develop their social skills. There is also a communal area, which includes a training kitchen and garden.
Hannah visited Polestar with her sister and met manager Neil Patterson. Polestar staff offer support to tenants 24 hours a day. The team includes both Deaf and hearing staff who all use British Sign Language as the main language of the home.
“When Neil signed I thought ‘wow’! It’s so important to have someone you can communicate with rather than struggling to lip-read.”
When Hannah moved in, it soon became clear to Neil and his staff that they needed to help her to recognise and manage her behaviour:
“We helped Hannah to understand her emotions by talking to her about why she reacted in certain ways and explaining the link between her physical health and behaviour. We also helped her to relate better with the outside world by managing her expectations.” says Neil
Hannah has benefitted so much from the security and support offered by Polestar, that she has now been able to make the transition to independent living. However the staff are still there for her, offering regular support through the Outreach Service. Neil and his team help Hannah to manage and understand her bills, liaise with health services and organise social activities such as visiting the cinema or going out for a meal.
“It’s reassuring to still have support from people I know and trust from Polestar” says Hannah. ‘Moving into a new home was daunting and disorientating at first but, with the help of Neil and the team, I feel safe and secure.”
*Hannah is not a real name. It is used to protect Hannah’s identity.