Good Deeds Notts: Rita shares her love of caring for others
Carer Rita Beard has welcomed around a dozen people with learning disabilities into her home as family.
The 64-year-old, of Stapleford, works for Nottinghamshire’s Shared Lives project and has two people living with her. Duties range from washing and cooking for 79-year-old Margaret Peel and taking 34-year-old Rachel to dancing and theatre groups.
They have recently returned from a trip to Euro Disney and four days in a caravan in Mablethorpe, all part of the work.
Rita said: “It’s a job, but it doesn’t feel like a job. I suppose you are on call 24/7 but it’s just like having a family.”
Rita, who has two adult children of her own, has worked for the Nottinghamshire County Council scheme for 21 years since taking a course in social care in her 40s. “I had always been used to having people around because my mum ran a guesthouse when I was growing up,” she said. “We had lodgers for long periods and I enjoyed getting to know them.”
Margaret has been with Rita for the last year and a half, only leaving for respite day care in a nearby nursing home. “When I come to Rita’s I just want to stop here,” she said. “It feels like home.”
And Rachel, who has learning disabilities and severe dyslexia, has now been with Rita for eight years.
She said: “My mum and dad don’t live in Nottingham so Rita is family for me here.”
They had got to know each other through the Shared Lives network before Rachel moved in. She is largely independent but needs help with some daily tasks, like preparing food.
And through treating Rachel as a surrogate daughter, Rita has helped inspire and nurture a love of performing.
Rachel attends theatre and dance groups, and performed at the opening ceremony of the World Cerebral Palsy Games at Harvey Hadden sports village in Bilborough. She did that despite needing specially designed boots to support her ankles. Rachel said: ”Rita has brought me through a lot. I love dancing and theatre and she takes me to classes. She reminds me to do things like brush my teeth and always makes sure I get to my doctor’s appointments.”
Nottinghamshire County Council launched a Shared Lives recruiting drive this month and is backing the Post’s Good Deeds campaign.
Shared Lives candidates are asked to support people with physical or learning disabilities, older people or those with mental health needs.
All carers receive training and support from the Shared Lives circle of friends. There are full-time care, roles, such as Rita’s, but people can also offer short breaks while carers are away or offer respite care. Her message for anyone considering the commitment is not to be afraid.
“When I had a placement with a day centre I walked into the room and turned away,” she said. “Then I realised that I was only scared about doing something wrong. You can’t have that fear because support and help you give to people is invaluable and the rewards are huge. I can’t describe what it means to welcome people in to be part of my family and give them care and support they need to flourish.”
For more information on Shared Lives, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 500 80 80.