Share and Care Homeshare enables people to live in their own homes for longer by matching them with ‘sharers’ who offer help and companionship.
For people who need some support to live independently at home, homeshare is an approach that can match them with someone who’s happy to provide practical help and friendship in return for affordable accommodation.
Share and Care Homeshare is a community interest company that’s matched hundreds of homeshare arrangements over the past 15 years, including with people who have dementia.
The householder provides free accommodation to their ‘sharer’ in exchange for 15 hours of help and company per week.
Both parties pay a small monthly fee to Share and Care Homeshare to match, monitor and mentor each arrangement.
Share and Care Homeshare was founded by Caroline Cooke, whose late father had vascular dementia.
Caroline is a Dementia Friends Champion who runs information sessions for family members and sharers.
She runs Share and Care Homeshare across the UK alongside director Amanda Clarke.
‘We call ourselves professional matchmakers,’ says Amanda. ‘You have an image in your head of what someone is looking for and what someone else can offer.’
The company will consider an applicant’s hobbies, interests and availability.
‘We’re looking for genuine friendships to develop, so you’ve got to go deeper and find out if they have things in common. We ask people a lot about their lives,’ says Amanda.
‘We also do all of the required checks and ask for sensible referees. Homeshare works because we take the matching very seriously.’
So, what makes a good sharer?
‘We’re looking for empathetic people, perhaps who have done volunteering and have some understanding of older people,’ says Amanda.
‘We want people who are happy to give their time – it shouldn’t feel like a job or be treated like a job.
‘A great match is where both sides understand that there needs to be a balance.’
Amanda is keen to make more people aware of homeshare as an option.
‘With future social care reform, homeshare should be more firmly on the agenda,’ she says.
Keep an eye
In south-west London, Flo and Luciana have been matched in a homeshare arrangement that’s been a success for both of them.
Share and Care Homeshare were approached by Flo’s daughter, Katie Barr-Sim. Katie lives three hours away from Flo, who has memory problems, and became aware her mother wasn’t always taking her medication.
‘It was evident that Mum needed more support, so I looked at the whole gamut including care agencies and care homes, but a friend suggested homeshare, which we started 18 months ago,’ says Katie.
‘It’s perfect for the stage we’re at, as Mum is not yet ready for full-on care but is still enormously worried by her loss of memory.’
The arrangement has been working very well for all involved, with Flo able to stay in the home she’s lived in for 40 years.
‘My dad died three years ago, so homeshare animates Mum’s house and connects her with someone younger,’ says Katie.
‘Luciana can nudge Mum into her routine and trigger reminders for her to take her medicine, or that she’s seeing a friend that day.
‘We try to visit every 10 days, but Luciana helps me keep an eye on things without being too invasive. I can ring up and say, “Has the letter come from the doctor? Have the gas people been?” It protects Mum’s dignity in a way.’
Katie says that Luciana was a great help to Flo during lockdown.
‘Mum hasn’t really got the intellectual capacity to entertain herself, but Luciana is jolly and upbeat, and they have great fun. Luciana’s humanity is exceptional and she has really added to Mum’s life.’
Luciana Canu, who is from Italy, has benefited from the arrangement as well.
‘I really want to study graphic design, which is very expensive, and with homeshare I can save some money with low-cost accommodation and possibly change my career in future,’ she says.
‘But it’s more than just material – I can also improve my English and fulfil my dream of experiencing this culture.’
Luciana has developed a close relationship with Flo.
‘Flo is like a friend, we often go out together for a walk or to have a coffee. She’ll come out with me and my friends,’ says Luciana, who also felt very supported by Flo’s family during the pandemic.
‘The activity she enjoys most is picking up litter at the park, because while we are looking after the environment, she can also chat to curious people who approach us.
‘We are basically two women of different ages who met at the right time and in a particular moment of our lives, so we help and support each other.’
Most importantly of all, what does Flo herself think of all this?
Smiling, she tells Katie, ‘Well, Luciana – she’s just become like family now, hasn’t she?’
If you or someone you know are worried about or affected by dementia, we are here for you. Get advice on a range of topics and find support near you.