Joanna came to David Lewis in her late 30’s. Her previous long term placement had broken down as the staff couldn’t support her medical needs around her epilepsy. It was a difficult period for her family as they tried to find somewhere suitable for Joanna to live, and for Joanna as she tried to make sense of the changes to her rituals and homelife. Her mother, Diana, shares with us her experiences:
“It was a challenging time. Jo Jo was finding things really difficult and this translated to some extreme behaviours. She needed full time care and whilst she stayed with us at home for a while, it really wasn’t a long term solution.
“I went to the hairdressers and picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping magazine. I spotted a small article that talked about epilepsy and it mentioned David Lewis, and how it was a beacon of care for people like Joanna. I rushed home and called them. Whilst they were helpful, they also tempered my expectations by saying that they had a long waiting list. After a long discussion they suggested Jo Jo come and stay with them for a six week assessment period, they would observe her and report back on her needs. When the six weeks ended, we went up to Cheshire to meet with the staff writing the report. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when they said, ‘we think she should stay with us’.
As Joanna settled and received expert medical care, her behaviour changed. Over the years Jo Jo lived her life to the fullest. She began to call David Lewis ‘home’ and shared her love of classical music and dancing with her house mates and staff.
Diana, explained how important it was to Jo Jo, that she was having similar life experiences to her two brothers,
“She had her own life at David Lewis. She did things her brothers did and that was great for her self-worth. If she’d stayed at home with us she would have been really isolated. Instead, she had real friendships, a long-term relationship and she worked in the on-site shop two days a week. She had independence for the first time and that was so important to her.
Jo Jo took her job at the shop seriously. She knew the price for every piece of stock. Simon, her brother jokes, “She would tell me every week about the rising price of Crunchies! She would often refuse to go out or talk on the phone late on the night before her work days, telling us, ‘I need to go to bed early tonight, I’ve got work tomorrow’.”
Simon told us how living onsite here helped her to rediscover her gregarious character, “she had friends that she couldn’t wait to tell you about” and how the staff caring for her showed palpable affection.
“They really went the extra mile. On my wedding day they drove her all the way down to Oxfordshire. One of my special memories of that day was Jo Jo grinning in the back of the staff vehicle surrounded by bouquets of flowers. She was like the Queen of Sheba!”
Joanna loved going to the onsite café at David Lewis, visiting religiously three times a week. The staff knew to reserve her the table she loved, taking care to get the ‘reserved’ sign up early! Jo Jo loved the café, meeting her brother Jonathan there on his regular visits.
“I loved watching her in action in there. She relished the sense of occasion and I loved the insight it gave me into her daily life. She knew everyone and would spend her time directing people and making sure they were doing everything just right. Plus, she always paid for lunch!”
Sadly Joanna passed away in 2022. At her well attended funeral her brother Simon spoke of how he knew Joanna was happy at David Lewis because her behaviour in her David Lewis house mirrored her behaviour at home with the family, “It was the same Jo Jo, she got everything she needed there too.”