Supporting Mental Health Awareness Week – Michael’s Story
Michael, an individual with learning disabilities and autism moved into De Parys, a residential learning disability service in Bedford, Bedfordshire in March 2019. At De Parys, the friendly, dedicated team takes a person-centred approach to support each individual with their bespoke needs. The focus is on supporting individuals to develop daily living skills that enable them to develop greater independence as well as supporting them to become actively involved in meaningful activities of their choice within their local community.
From the time Michael moved into De Parys, he was well-liked by everyone and was known as a very funny and easy-going person. Everyone enjoyed his sharp sense of humour and always found him to be a pleasant companion.
Following the start of the first COVID lockdown, everything began to change for Michael. While the lockdown was a big upheaval for everyone, it affected Michael the most. By the beginning of April, the team began to notice a difference in his demeanour and over the course of the next few months, Michael became increasingly aggressive and agitated.
Prior to the lockdown, Michael would go home once a weekend to see his family. He liked to spend time with his mum and dad and visit his sister, niece and nephew, as well as spending time outside with the family dog, Marley.
The close relationship and regular contact he had with his family had always contributed positively towards Michael’s mental health and his overall sense of wellbeing. Although he continued to maintain contact through regular phone calls, the loss of in person contact affected his ability to cope. In addition to this, Michael also suffered the loss of a close friend, that he had known for over 27 years, who sadly passed away with COVID.
Struggling to cope with the loss of routine, the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and the stress of not knowing when things would go back to normal, he began displaying behaviours more frequently and with greater intensity.
He would often ask the team, “When is this disease going away?”
As well as impacting on his own wellbeing, his behaviours were also having a significant impact on the other supported individuals living at De Parys as well as the support team.
Recognising that Michael needed additional support with his Mental Health during this challenging time, the team took part in a Care Programme Approach (CPA) meeting to discuss how to move forward. The team also made immediate referrals to the Consensus, in-house Positive Behavioural Intervention Team (PBIT), as well as Mental Health Services and Social Services.
Following the referrals made by the team, Michael was allocated a social worker who was able to organise and co-ordinate Multi-Disciplinary Agency meetings and act as the professional middle-man between the service and external health professionals.
Michael was also assessed by a psychiatrist and prescribed medication to help stabilise his moods and behaviours.
Positive Behaviour Support
In addition to support from external health professionals, Michael also had dedicated time with Amber Charlton, Consensus inhouse PBIT Practitioner for the Central region.
As a Behaviour Practitioner, Amber’s role involves assisting support teams and supported individuals with complex support needs with Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) strategies and approaches that help to reduce anxieties and behaviours and improve their overall quality of life.
After meeting with Michael and Service Manager, Bruno Barbosa to assess Michael’s needs, Amber conducted several online workshop sessions with the support team, providing guidance on how to recognise triggers and de-escalate a situation before it results in behaviours, which enabled the team to feel much more confident and able to support Michael when he was feeling unsettled.
Through their work with Amber, the team also discovered that one of the triggers for Michael was staff handover times when there was an increase in the number of staff in the service, because Michael found the amount of people overwhelming.
To overcome this, at staff handover times, Bruno designated one member of staff to be with Michael in a quiet area away from the staff area, which worked well for him and the incidents soon stopped.
Keeping Michael busy and active was another PBS strategy that was recommended by Amber to support the reduction in his behaviours.
The team supported Michael to increase his level of activity through supporting him to go for regular walks outside, colouring, karaoke sessions and being actively involved in planning and preparing meals.
At De Parys, each supported individual cooks a meal for the rest of the household on at least one night of the week but for Michael this was increased to two nights, because cooking was an activity he really enjoys and helped to keep him focussed.
After the additional support was put in place for Michael, his mental health improved significantly; his social worker has now been able to take a step back and he now has a review with his psychiatrist every three months. His relationships with the other supported individuals and the support team have also reverted back to how they were prior to the pandemic, with everyone enjoying spending time in his company.
As of today, Michael is much more relaxed, settled and confident about the future. He often participates in activities around the house and since the lockdown eased further, he has been getting out and about to get take away coffees at the local coffee shops, going for walks and going one day a week to a nearby farm.
He is also enjoying taking part in the activities that the service does to support the local community, such as delivering sandwiches to the local homeless shelter and more recently, baking and delivering handmade cakes to the doctors surgery as well as the nursing home on their street.
Michael will also be receiving his second COVID jab shortly which has further encouraged his wellbeing as he can now see a pathway out of the pandemic.