Compassion and recovery at Equinox Aspinden Wood – so no-one is forgotten...

Posted by on 16 August 2012 | 0 Comments

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Equinox Aspinden Wood is a 24-bed care home for people with complex needs, including alcohol dependence and mental ill health. Service Manager Jenny explains the approach at Aspinden Wood to supporting these people. And service user Tom, aged 70, talks about his experience and achievements.

Jenny, what is the purpose of Equinox Aspinden Wood?

Tell us about some of the approaches at Aspinden Wood to recovery and support for people with long term alcohol dependence...

“Equinox Aspinden Wood is a place where people are accepted as they are,” Jenny explains. “Our service users have complex needs – mental ill health, alcohol use, family breakdown and many of them would otherwise be homeless.

“We offer stability to help people reduce their drinking. Some service users arrive here drinking vodka or whisky everyday and we see them reducing their alcohol intake, changing from spirits to beer, sometimes stopping for periods of time. And we see our people starting to do the things they’ve always wanted to do.

“We have one lady here who likes dancing, for example. She is one of our oldest clients at 86. She was placed in a care home before she came here – when she was referred to us, we were told she was aggressive, chaotic and incontinent. We don’t see that now. She goes dancing every Friday, she does exercise classes and she goes to events within her cultural community in London. She enjoys her life.

“We are family for many of our service users – there are often deep traumas that have caused deep rifts within their own families. We support and help with repairing family relationships where possible – where it isn’t possible, we work with our service users to accept the situation.

“We also help our service users at Aspinden Wood to get the most out of their lives. There was a service user who wanted to go on holiday, for example – he had been talking for a while about going to France. So we worked with him to make that happen.”

A community of service users, working together towards recovery...

“We address issues that come up here as a group – we have joint staff and service user meetings when a service user is very unwell, for example, and their behaviour may be affecting other residents. We say to everyone, what do you want to do about this situation because this is your home? We come up together with solutions and we give people the choice here to take responsibility for themselves. Within the service user community at Aspinden Wood, people tend to reinforce the decisions they make as a group, which benefits everyone.”

Isn’t it hard to work with long term drinkers?

“Some people say to me, Jenny how can you work with drinkers who won’t stop? I give this example...

"There was a service user I worked with who was going to die if he didn’t stop drinking. We talked about the situation together and we addressed directly the severity of his alcohol dependence.

"He said to me, 'Jenny I have really tried in my life to stop. But I cannot do it and I do not want to do it. I want to die happy.'

"We discussed together at length that it is possible to be happy without alcohol. And then he explained his choice to me in this way.

“If I don’t drink,” he said, “all the traumas that cause me to drink, that I have not faced and do not want to face, they all come back. I choose at this stage in my life not to deal with these things, it is too painful for me.”

What do you enjoy about working at Aspinden Wood?

“I’ve been here since January 2001. My background is nursing and in various positions in the care sector. Equinox Aspinden Wood is a great service to work in – you learn how to work with people with alcohol dependence and you learn different skills around challenging behaviour. You learn about stigma in the community around mental health issues. It doesn’t feel like coming to work for me. There are also great achievements going on here at Aspinden Wood – for both staff and service users. I see service users learning to function at home and within the community. I see staff developing their skills and benefiting so much from working here.”

70 year old Tom, Aspinden Wood service user, shares here some of his story...

“I've always been a heavy drinker. I spent a long time on the streets and during that time I had a fall and hurt my leg. In the end, gangrene set in and my leg was amputated. The Street Rescue team brought me to Aspinden Wood. They said if I went back out on the streets, I would only last a few weeks.

“It was good to come to Equinox. I settled in here and felt welcome. I gave Equinox a month at the start, as I’d never stayed anywhere for more than a week or two. But I got to like how I felt here. Normally, the first thing they give you in places I’ve stayed is a rule book the size of a telephone directory, but I was allowed to settle in as myself at Aspinden Wood.

“I’ve become more positive in my outlook since coming to Equinox and I can see my life changing for the better. After 6 months, I was voted service user rep for Aspinden Wood. I got involved in meetings at Equinox Head Office. I asked one day at Head Office if we could get some funding to do our garden. For a year now, we’ve put in tomatoes, onions, potatoes, lettuces, collies, cabbages and spring onions. All our vegetables get used in the meals we have here.  We’re not exactly the Chelsea Flower Show – but we’re all really pleased!

Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

“I also set a meeting here amongst the residents called ‘Use and Abuse’ – this is where we get together, read the morning papers and discuss articles in the news. I think it’s really important to take an interest in what’s going on in the world and have a view on things – the brain is like any other part of the body, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

“I always remember the manager from a hostel in Vauxhall I stayed in coming to see me here at Aspinden Wood – he brought four staff with him to see me, people I knew when I was there. They all said they couldn’t believe the difference in me.”

Some more pictures of the veg garden at Aspinden Wood...

 Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

Equinox Aspinden Wood - service user garden

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