Brenda’s Shared Lives story

Shared Lives is a bit like foster care but for adults who want their own freedom and independence. Carers can support someone who lives in their home with them or for the day. This could be someone who has a learning disability, someone with mental health needs, a new parent, someone who has struggled with substance misuse or someone leaving foster care or children’s care. 

Brenda* lives with her Shared Lives carer Joan*. Joan supports her to lead her life the way she wants to. She’s part of Joan’s family and feels right at home with them. With Shared Lives she has become a happier, healthier person and with the support of her carer she has become the best version of herself. She loves nothing more than settling in for the night to watch a few episodes of Benidorm with her carer and can’t wait to be able to get out there to watch live entertainers again in their local pub. Her life is so full of life and so is she.  

Last week we met the colourful Brenda* over video call. Brenda was first introduced to Shared Lives ten years ago. Her charisma and infectious optimism is so inspiring, especially considering the difficult experiences she has faced in her lifetime. She looks forward to the future with such positivity and appreciation since living with her carer, Joan.  ‘I’m a millionaire now’, says Brenda but not in material wealth, in so much more.

Brenda, now in her late 50’s, first moved over to Liverpool from Ireland as a teenager. She came from a travelling family and remembers her very humble beginnings fondly despite the family living in poverty. Brenda married very young and faced devastating domestic abuse at the hands of her husband.  Their life was a whirlwind of violence and substance misuse. Brenda’s health was rapidly declining from the physical abuse, the emotional torment and the lifestyle that came with this. She was hospitalised on many occasions because of this violence. She opens up about how she slept on the streets to feed her addiction and endured life-threatening attacks until her husband passed away.

At this point, Brenda moved into a hostel and continued to abuse her body with drugs and alcohol. She would beg on the streets and her physical and mental health was impacted by her self-destructive choices. Joan remembers reading Brenda’s notes and thinking that this was somebody who needed a lot of support to get better. It wasn’t going to be easy. But Joan was open-minded, she met Brenda and was instantly drawn in by her loving personality and charm.

Today, Brenda is unrecognisable from the person she was back then. She’s so much happier in her own skin and looks back at this chapter of her life as how she has got to where she is today. She loves her life living with Joan and has managed to overcome her addiction. ‘If you set your mind to it you can do anything’, says Brenda. Brenda is such a big part of Joan’s family, her friendship circle and her entire world. The pair are inseparable and couldn’t imagine life without each other.  ‘All she ever wanted was a quiet life after all of the chaos and she has this now’, says Joan.

Brenda’s honest strength and determination is so refreshing along with her compassion and wit. She wants the people around her to feel the same love that she has felt from being supported by Shared Lives.  She is full of compliments and praise for other people and you really feel how thankful she is for her life with every word she speaks.

Find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer and growing as a person by supporting someone like Brenda: