Living a good life – Roger’s story

26/09/2019

Roger
Having the chance to contribute to the community plays an important role in people’s wellbeing, and it’s no different if you have a learning disability.

Avenues has been supporting Roger to create the life he wants since 1995, when he left the Leybourne Grange hospital. Initially he was being prescribed a range psychotropic drugs, which were damaging his physical health and limiting his motivation.

Over time, the Avenues support team at his new home in Station Road, Rainham, reduced the dose, supported him to become more active and worked to understand the things that made him happy.

Today, he is well known locally, through activities including local community walks and voluntary work at the local food bank. The NHS has found that volunteering helps people feel valued, develop personal and social skills and gain greater self esteem, and Service Manager Mel Parish believes Roger's story backs this up. 

She said: “Roger has very limited verbal communication, but that’s not a barrier to him taking part - he just needs the right support.

“We believe it’s his right to have the same opportunities as everyone else, and experience of much of life as possible – including the harder stuff. When his mother was critically ill with cancer, we supported him to visit and take care of her in hospital. This was important for him, but also made a big difference to her. She wouldn’t accept food from the nursing staff, only Roger. He helped keep his mum alive just a bit longer.

“But the support package has to remain a work in progress; we’re always trying to get to know him better and understand what we can do better, even after 25 years!”

Roger with Mel and Amina (right)
Mel, Roger and Amina

Support Worker Amina Russell explained: “We’ve supported Roger for a long time, and know him really well, but we still work really hard every day to understand how we can give him the life he wants. We all change over the years and it’s no different if you have a learning disability; it really comes down to communication.

“Roger loves volunteering at the foodbank, but recently he was getting very agitated about doing this on a Tuesday. By working with him to figure it all out, we got to understand that it was because he missed seeing the binmen, who always collect that morning. We love it when they come and seeing everything disappear into the back of the truck – they’re really friendly and always make sure Roger knows they’ve arrived.

“So we just found a way of going to help at the foodbank on a Wednesday, stopping the frustration which was quite hard for him to communicate.  Roger is really happy now and gets to do more things he enjoys, which is what life’s all about.”

Mel added: “The team here are so committed to Roger and making sure he’s happy – when he’s smiling they’re smiling too. He’s such a lovely chap. We’ve supported him for nearly 25 years and hope we’ll get the chance to do it for 25 more.”

Roger is very excited about his next project, as the local council have confirmed that he can have an allotment to grow his own fruit and vegetables.

Roger puts his feet up after his walk
Roger puts his feet up after his walk

Avenues’ commitment to connecting the people we support to the community they live in, and combatting loneliness led to a three-year project for the Big Lottery. Read more about ‘It Takes 2’ project here - https://www.avenuesgroup.org.uk/news/it-takes-2-final-report-published/