How our work changes lives
Sisters Margaret and Irene both have hearing loss. They joined a Lifestyle Management Course in 2014 after their older sister died. The course offered the support they were looking for, but also assisted them in unexpected ways, particularly in managing their hearing loss and feeling more confident.
‘I used to pass everyone on the street,’ says Margaret. ‘I would never talk to anybody, because of the background noise.’ One breakthrough moment happened while Margaret was still on the course. She was waiting for the bus when a man started speaking to her,‘and without thinking I answered him!’ she exclaims. That would never have happened before. She has now gained the confidence to speak to her neighbours and feels a part of her community, where she has lived for 28 years. ‘I know more neighbours now than I have ever known – I think they must have thought I was a snob,’ she laughs.
Irene has experienced a similar boost to her confidence. ‘Before, when I couldn’t tell what people were saying, I would just sit back,’ she says. ‘I’m a lot more outgoing now. I’m not frightened to speak to people or to go places.’
Since completing the Lifestyle Management Course, Margaret and Irene have continued to come to Thistle to do Tai Chi classes and relaxation. They are regulars in the hub, surrounded by the new friends they have made at Thistle.
‘I’ve still got bad hearing loss and I still get a lot of background noise,’ says Margaret, ‘but now I’ve got the confidence to sit down and speak my mind.’
Just like any other 23 year old guy, Callum likes cars, playing the guitar, Xbox and living on his own. But until 2014, when Thistle piloted an Individual Service Fund (ISF) with Callum and his support team, he had never spent an evening alone in his house. Callum’s behaviour was aggressive and non-cooperative. He had 24-hour support, often with two people living alongside him, and it wasn’t working for him.
Individual Service Funds are at the heart of the new Self Directed Support legislation, which means that people who require support can have choice and control over the financial and social support they need. Thistle and City of Edinburgh Council worked with Callum to introduce the ISF way of working.
The ISF allowed Callum and his team to think more creatively. The first step was spending a night alone in his house – and he loved it. Callum continued to reduce his support, until eventually he settled at 27 hours a week. By lowering his support hours so dramatically, Callum had more choices about how to make the most of the support available to him.
He started by getting in shape. A combination of jogging and weightlifting in Thistle’s gym has seen Callum lose 3 stone already. Not only has going to the gym helped Callum physically, it has also boosted his self esteem. Callum also got support to start up his own car valeting service, edging towards his dream to become a mechanic. ‘We never knew he had these ambitions,’ explains his mother Moira. ‘We’re so proud of him.’
On Callum’s bedroom wall there is a huge poster of New York. That is the next plan: to save up, get a passport and explore the world. Callum explains: ‘It’s like my mum says, “Never say never!” There are always hopes and dreams.’
When Kenny came to Thistle he needed support for both his physical and mental health. After talking things through with one of our health and wellbeing practitioners, he decided to join our ten-week Lifestyle Management Course. The course helped Kenny to pace himself and to think more positively about his situation.
Kenny then joined an exercise class in theThistle gym, designed especially for people who had experienced a stroke. By taking small steps towards regaining his confidence and physical strength,it was clear that a big change was taking place. So big, in fact, that two years later,Kenny walks not with a stick but a spring in his step, sometimes for two hours with his walking group, covering distances of up to five miles. He is independent, has reconnected with old friends and lives the life he wants. His family has been inspired by his transformation,too; Kenny jokes,‘I never knew what Tai Chi was before, but now I’m teaching my sisters Tai Chi exercises!’
Kenny also supports other people to take up exercise. An important step on his journey was to be come a Thistle volunteer – encouraging people with long-term health conditions to pursue physical activity, often for the first time in years.
In 2014,Kenny started volunteering at the Thistle gentle exercise classes in the local community. Kenny ‘buddies’ people as they try out their exercise circuits –‘helping other people gives you great satisfaction,’ he explains. ‘I know what it’s like myself, just having someone to talk to makes a big difference,’ he says, thinking back to life before Thistle, ‘there’s nothing worse than being on your own.’
After his second stint in a psychiatric ward, Keith moved to Whiteford House, a complex of supported accommodation for Scottish veterans. ‘The doctor said that things weren’t going to get better in the family home,’ he says; his stress levels were just too high to sustain a happy life there.
Keith needed support and after getting in touch with Thistle, our veterans’practitioners, Pat and Gary, visited him at Whitefoord House where he felt safe, and talked to him about what he wanted. Keith decided to try our Veterans’ Programme.
‘People will go on a Thistle course when they’ve had enough of their suffering and they are looking for a way out of it,’ says Keith,‘and it’ll not be the first thing they’ve done.’ Keith had tried other things, but they did not work for him. The Veterans’ Programme he joined is specifically for veterans who are having trouble adjusting to civilian life, and is designed so that every veteran – regardless of their experience or condition – can manage it at their own pace.
Keith was determined to change his situation, and that is exactly what he has done. Soon after completing the ten-week course he decided he wanted to assist other veterans. ‘I thought it would be great to get involved,’ he says. ‘I went on several of the short training courses run for volunteers and learned so much from them.’
Keith’s journey did not stop there. At the start of 2015, he was employed by Thistle to deliver his own course, Settling the Restless Mind, which supports veterans to manage depression, anxiety and stress through training the mind to concentrate on the present and aiming to increase feelings of positivity, focus and attention.