This week, Ashaq cooked a curry for dinner. No biggie perhaps, but for Ashaq, this apparently simple task represents a long journey out of pain and loss, with the support of an expert Livability residential care team.
Ashaq was at the lowest point in his life when he arrived at Livability York House, home to 17 disabled adults in West Yorkshire. Extreme health problems from an undiagnosed illness had meant he had lost his ability to balance or even sit upright. This culminated in him being bedbound and hospitalised for a year. Ashaq was very underweight, suffered violent sweats and tremors and was emotionally at rock bottom, having lost his job, marriage and child. His social isolation added to his distress.
Despite some of Ashaq’s care needs being new territory for Livability York House, experienced manager Helen Holt felt that Livability’s care and support could make a difference to this man’s life: ‘We wanted to increase his support to improve his quality of life, we needed to understand his disability and we needed to get a diagnosis and medication that could help him – but the journey was quite a difficult one.’
Ashaq’s needs often caused him extreme distress, so he often shouted at and shunned other people at York House, who found him very challenging to live with. ‘I remember being very hot, shouting and not wanting any help or assistance from no one,’ he says.
But with the Livability team’s expertise in care at home, as well as in navigating local healthcare services, life began to change for Ashaq. ‘We finally got a diagnosis of Parkinsonia Syndrome and the right medication for Ashaq,’ says Helen. ‘The response was gradual but fantastic – Ashaq began to eat better, his shakes decreased and he was provided with a special chair which meant he could sit out for short periods.’
Staff went the extra mile to improve life for Ashaq: ‘The experienced staff members led the way and staff gave him a consistent approach, listened to him and because of this, could bring in the right external specialists,’ Helen says. ‘Staff were really observant as to what was working well and were constantly striving to increase his quality of life. We could see him responding to this and as he began to feel better, we started to experience his sense of humour.’
Supported by staff, Ashaq began to make connections other residents. ‘The people who live here could see the change in Ashaq and began interacting with him. I began to see people chatting with him and genuinely enjoying his company. Now he is fully included by them.’ This could not have happened without the kind of consistent, person-centred care that Livability provides: as Helen reflects, ‘It took us a year to get to this place’.
Ashaq says his life is transformed: ‘[When I came to York House] I was very angry at why I couldn’t do anything. Now I can get dressed, look nice and get up into my chair. I love my music and watching birds and I get to enjoy all this again. Staff are very good at helping me achieve what I require and they have helped me a lot with things I’m not able to do.’
Helen adds: ‘Ashaq tells us he is happy, he directs his life via an iPad, such as choosing which clothes to wear – and he’s a big Kylie fan, also via the iPad! Underneath who we first thought was a really unhappy person is a softly spoken gentleman with a fantastic sense of humour, who takes a pride in his appearance.’
Being inclusive and courageous are two of Livability’s core values, and bringing Ashaq into the York House community shows how these values in practice can all add up to a changed, connected life. ‘I’m so glad we worked wiith Ashaq because I feel that the people who live here have supported him and enabled a quality of life that he didn’t have before’, says Helen.
Ashaq has made such significant physical and emotional progress that he now feels he has a future ‘Hopefully with the progression I am making, I’ll be able to get a suitable wheelchair to take me out into the community, to the markets, to be able to buy things of my own, like clothes, fruit and bakery.’ Being able to sit upright also means Ashaq can work in the kitchen – and look forward to many more homemade curries.
Ashaq sadly passed away since this story was published. He was very proud to share his story online; today we still honour his memory.