Ruth’s story is one of determination, team-work and achievement.

Ruth has a learning disability and some physical needs. She has epilepsy, Type 2 diabetes and a mental health condition. Ruth had operations on both legs when she was younger. In 2010 Ruth started to use a wheelchair after a fall led to decreased mobility and confidence.

Until 2014 Ruth lived with her parents whom she is very close to. Moving into a supported bungalow that year was a very big step for her. Ruth and her parents hoped that this move would enable Ruth to re-build her all-round confidence and to progress towards greater independence.

One of Ruth’s goals was to lose weight – given her diabetes condition it was very important that she manage her weight and diet as well as possible. Ruth’s staff helped her to find alternative low-sugar treats that are suitable for people with diabetes and to increase her activity levels. She has now lost two stone by being more active and managing her diet better. She is delighted that she now longer needs to have her blood sugars checked by the GP as her diabetes is so well managed. “I know I can’t have too much sugar because of my diabetes. I don’t eat chocolate – it’s not good for me. I’m happy that I have lost some weight.

Ruth takes lots of pride in her appearance and staff help her plan shopping trips, hair dresser appointments and so on so that she can always look her best. Losing weight has had a positive impact on Ruth’s self-esteem as well as physical health; “I feel like a new woman. My old picture doesn’t look like me. I say no pain, no gain.” To help Ruth increase her weekly activity levels, Reach staff supported her to start swimming again – something she enjoyed as a child but which she felt fearful about. Initially Ruth needed a sling to enter the water, which in itself she found challenging. She now rarely uses the sling and when she does, takes it all in her stride. With her staff’s encouragement Ruth increased her swimming sessions to twice a week and also opted to attend hydrotherapy sessions that her house-mate attends.

Ruth can now swim and walk unaided in the pool, do push-ups on the steps and play ball games. She was worried about getting aching muscles, but staff gently explained that mild aching is a positive sign. Ruth then set herself the challenge of climbing out of the pool. She practised climbing a few steps each week until she mastered it. Ruth’s mum was blown away with this improvement. “Mum was proud and amazed. She videoed it on the i-pad and told Dad about it. I feel proud when I do it and my Reach staff tell me that they are proud as well.

Her muscles are now much stronger which helps Ruth to feel safer and more confident in using her legs and is becoming less dependent on her wheelchair in the home. She can now climb in and out of her parent’s van which means that she can go on holiday with them - this major achievement is very important to Ruth.

Ruth is good at arts and crafts and, with the help of Reach centre managers, Ruth and her staff have planned a diverse activity programme that enables Ruth to express herself creatively and to continue to develop her social and communication skills. Ruth attends pottery at Reach Southwell, and crafts, drama and bowling at Reach Newark. Her home is full of ornaments and articles that Ruth has produced – including a family of giraffes, Ruth’s favourite animal.

Ruth’s emotional well-being has improved as her confidence in her own abilities has grown. Her mum explains: “Ruth is far more confident and will voice her opinion more readily. She can speak with more confidence to people she has just met.” Ruth has plenty of opportunities to enjoy social interaction with people of all ages. She has a good relationship with her house-mate Dale that is built on kindness, humour and mutual encouragement. Her increased confidence in making friends is proven by Ruth having made a new friend at swimming whom she now meets socially.

Ruth’s increased confidence in her own abilities has facilitated her progress towards a greater level of independence. She now enjoys everyday tasks like making drinks and packed lunches; “I used to think I couldn’t do things but now I know I can.” Ruth likes to show people what she can do. She likes to surprise people and loves all the positive praise and encouragement she gets from her staff team. She also likes to show staff how to knit.

Ruth’s staff have learned the best ways to support her through mental health episodes by listening to her and her family. As she has become more settled and comfortable in her new home, these episodes have significantly decreased. Importantly, she is now more able to express herself and use her voice to communicate her feelings and cope in unfamiliar situations. “I’m fine. I’m energetic. I enjoy my activities. I will tell staff when there’s something wrong.

Ruth would like everyone to know that she has achieved so much over the last four years thanks to the support and encouragement of her family and Reach. She wants people to know how far she has come and – as Dale always reminds her at hydro – “There’s no such word as can’t!

Full case study prepared by Hayley Zemontas (Reach Care) and Ruth

Summary version by Julia Sandhu, Fundraising Director

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