Perseverance pays off for Claude's happiness - Avenues Group
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Perseverance pays off for Claude’s happiness

Friday 20th of November 2020

When the Mayor of Bromley visited Avenues service Amplio House recently, one man made a big impact on her companion, Counsellor Colin Hitchins. He had met resident Claude many years previously, and was delighted to see the dramatic, visible change in Claude’s wellbeing with Avenues support – “So many people in the borough will be so pleased he is so well”, he said. It’s testament to the support the service has given and the dedication to working with Claude since he arrived at the service.

Claude with the Mayor, Counsellor and Support worker Joseph behind

Claude recently celebrated his 58th birthday at Amplio House. The sight of him laughing and joking with the other residents of the surrounding flats and staff seems poles apart from when he first arrived at the service.

​​​​​​​According to Service Manager Aisha Byamugisha, when she started working at the service in 2017, Claude suffered with anxiety and depression which often culminated in aggressive behaviour. He’d moved to Amplio in April 2012 after a previous placement in a shared house hadn’t worked out. At the height of his anxiety he could have as much as six distressed episodes a week

“He would sometimes push people or pull them and could punch and kick. Triggers could be change or not understanding why he needed to do something and not being able to express that”, Aisha says. The behaviour meant Claude needed two people to support him.

It has taken perseverance, understanding, dedication and warmth to support Claude to feel comfortable and happy where he is. Determined to support him to live a full and active life in the community, Aisha began to look back at his past to see how they could move forward. “It was essential to understand how best to support Claude and how to make sure the team felt confident in supporting him.” However current behaviour was equally important.

“I read a lot about Claude’s history but I also observed and perceived that there did appear to be some differences.”

Aisha saw that Claude had been seen by behavioural specialists at a nearby hospital so began to meet and consult with staff there. She shared her observations and people talked about what had worked well and what not so. They agreed a plan which focused on Claude having the choice of when to go out. His behavioural episodes began to decrease.

“I was constantly trying to observe what the triggers were so working with staff closely and Claude constantly to understand.

It was a combination of guidelines and consistency and people sticking to it within the team, the whole team that was involved with Claude” says Aisha

She perceived a difficult situation would always arise when someone went on holiday. It made her realise an important factor was “that Claude missed his family” – It was a form of separation anxiety. “So we knew that it would be better for him if we told him when we were going and that we would be back and when we would be back” said Aisha.

“We made it a ‘family’ setting here. Claude and other Amplio House residents are welcome in the staff office if they want to talk to staff. We also sent him postcards when we were away. In addition I worked with staff a lot, in training on voice, body language, everything and how to diffuse a situation”, said Aisha.

Claude shopping for his birthday party

Aisha and the team decided to ask Claude if he would like to go on holiday. “He declined at first but then one day asked if he could go”, she recalls.  “He hadn’t been on holiday as he had a fear of leaving and not coming back.” So after consulting with a number of teams, Aisha accompanied Claude for his first holiday in 2018 along with Support Worker Lloyden, allowing him to choose the destination, hotel and activities.

Aisha also looked at Claude’s medication to see what worked the best so he lived a full life. “I worked closely with teams that had worked with him before but I did have to persevere and push with what I thought may work. Again it was a case of looking back and seeing what may have brought on certain behaviour.” Through medication changes. Aisha, with the help of a new Assistant Service Manager Iqbal who had experience in mental health, continued to observe Claude and got to know him better. “He likes to be included and he’s very family orientated. He also wants you to like him but isn’t sure how to communicate this sometimes”. She built up trust. “He knows he can come to us without fear.”

Claude now proudly displays photographs in his flat of himself and the team on holiday, which he takes every year. There’s been a beach retreat in Margate , boat-spotting in Dover and most recently a trip to the New Forest with his support team.

“He had a fantastic time” said Support Worker Mary Howsley who accompanied Claude with Support Worker Mark “he kept us on our toes.”

Claude’s flat also houses his CD collection, the most recent purchase being music he chose for his 58th birthday which he celebrated in his flat surrounded by friends and staff. “Before 2018 he’d never had a birthday party”, says Aisha, “Now he has celebrated his birthdays and Christmas.

“However this year was the first year he planned what he wanted to buy and even chose what he wanted to wear”

​​​​​​​With support Claude planned every aspect of his birthday, from the food and cakes which he happily shopped for, to the personalised T-shirt he had printed to wear at the birthday table.

Music is important to Claude as he picks out a CD for his birthday

​​​​​​​When Aisha looks back at Claude’s journey she credits a number of approaches that have made a difference

“It’s that person-centred care, understanding who he is and the way he communicates. It’s getting to know his background and talking to people who know him well”, she says, “But it’s also been about perseverance and not giving up plus building confidence and trust”.

She knows it hasn’t always been easy. “I’ve had to do a lot of detective work. But I have constantly challenged myself to do the best”, says Aisha. “It makes me think a lot and it has taken resilience and confidence. It would be easy for me to walk in and out of here every day you know. I have a job. But there are so many things that can be changed just with one person.”

She also knows the challenge, as well as making Claude’s life happier, has made her grow as a manager.

“It’s been a continuous learning curve. I know Claude is a happy person but I am never complacent because at the end of the day we are all human. But we are here to manage it.”

Aisha’s next quest is to support Claude to locate his family who he hasn’t heard from for a number of years. She knows how important it is to him “he buys them a Christmas card every year and a post card when he goes on holiday”.

Working together as a strong team at Amplio has been vital. “I’m so proud of what we have achieved with Claude. I’m grateful for those that have worked with me and believed in me. Nothing could have been done without my team. Now Claude always tells me he’s happy.”

“I tell him ‘If you’re happy, I’m happy’” says Aisha smiling.


Claude enjoying his birthday with Service Manager Aisha, friends and the Amplio team