I have been visiting Enid for a few years now. She is a lovely lady who doesn’t tend to leave the house and struggles with her mental health. She is very isolated, and her past experiences have made her prone to paranoia and reluctant to trust. I knew that it would take time to build a trusting relationship with her, and I understood that consistency and reliability would be key – as well as patience and understanding.
Enid’s flat was in a bit of a state. She had moved in over 15 years ago, but still hadn’t really unpacked. When I first started visiting, it had an almost temporary feel to it. I really wanted to tidy, paint and make it feel more cosy and homely for Enid. But I had to appreciate that this was not my place – it was Enid’s. She was in control of how she wanted to live, and it was not for me to take this away, even though my intentions were good. I was also aware that this would influence the balance of the relationship. My role was to empower her and let her do things at her pace and how she chose. I have learnt to ask permission or gently prompt if she wishes me to do anything.
It has been a slow process, and sometimes we seem to take one step forward and two steps back, but it is important that this is at Enid’s pace and what she feels comfortable with (I celebrate the little wins). I believe that this has helped us in building a trusting relationship.
On most visits, we sit and chat, as she must be terribly lonely. Enid tells me of her life, her past experiences, her troubles and her regrets. These troubles and regrets often play on her mind, as she has so much time alone in her flat to think. My grandmother used to do this, and I would often get in trouble for something I had said or done 20 years ago!
Enid and I have spoken about these worries many times. It is a good outlet for her to vent all these feelings that could manifest themselves into something more. We have discussed how everyone has troubles and regrets from their past, that these feelings are normal, and that it would be unrealistic of us to expect nothing bad to ever happen to us in our lives – but these experiences have shaped us into who we are today – and Enid is an amazing lady! I absolutely adore her, she is one of the most kind-hearted and thoughtful people I have ever met, and I love the days that I go and visit. She is so humble, and does not realise how smart, kind and funny she is – always bashfully batting away any kind of compliment.
I think I get just as much out of the visits as she does. We always find something to laugh about – mostly the silly things that we have done in the past, politics or the madness that goes on in the world – and it makes us appreciate this little pocket in the universe – Enid’s flat – where she feels in control, safe and unjudged, and where we both know where each other stands.
I feel that she is quite comfortable, and often teases me when I bring in a homemade slice of cake, or new things for her to try, saying that I am trying to fatten her up. When I step into her flat, it feels like time stands still for both of us. It always takes us by surprise when my visit is over. We sometimes run over, and she might ask me to stay a bit longer, which I am always happy to do, as I am never in a rush to leave. Hopefully this shows her that I genuinely do love spending time with her, which will support her wellbeing and make her feel loved and cared for.
Although the progress is little and often, the overall impact is hugely significant. I am delighted that Enid now feels incredibly happy about having friends and family to visit. We have tidied a little and she is proud of the space she is inviting them into. She loves sorting out what refreshments we will offer, putting great thought into this. To see her like this is absolutely wonderful, and to be included in meeting her friends and family is a real honour.