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by Great Mate & Lifestyle Assistant Ellen Hussey

The Power to Empower People

I have had the pleasure of working alongside Great Mates for a year now and during this time I have seen many people, receiving support, planning and achieving personal goals, connecting with like-minded people to create an uplifting and supportive community, and sharing laughs with their Great Mates!

I have had the pleasure of working closely with individuals who have succeeded in many areas of their life including education, health and wellbeing and have developed skills to advocate for themselves and their loved ones, showing strength and independence in their day-to-day lives. As lifestyle assistants, we are here to help support and empower our people in everyday life and encourage them to develop skills to become more independent and we can do this directly and indirectly.

Sit down with your Great Mate and have the following discussion.


1. What do I want to achieve? Short- and long-term goals.

Many of the people we support want to develop skills and knowledge in their interests, either through work experience or education.

Some people we support want to better their health by joining a gym or following a meal plan; experiencing travel or weekend getaways, building healthy romantic and platonic relationships, or even having a job to make their own independent money; these short-term and long-term goals have an invaluable positive affect on individuals! Sit down with your Great Mate and discuss what they want to achieve.

While it is important to be realistic about goals and understand limitations that may arise, many companies offer supported work experience (Great Mates will soon be offering employment opportunities such as Pooch Mates or Mower Mates), experiences tailored to people with disabilities and there are many available resources online and in person which can help meet and achieve goals!


2. What can I do to meet these goals?

Now that we have identified these goals, what can we do to meet them? Online research is a great starting point, and this is something we can assist our Great Mates with. Many companies offer free consultations and can help direct you to the right team to speak to! It’s always okay to ask any questions and many people are happy to help.


3. How can I maintain my independence?

Remind your Great Mate that they have a supportive team behind them to help maintain their goals! Use positive language and reinforcement to keep things upbeat and exciting, during the good days and bad. Check-in with them regularly and ensure to make any changes or adaptions to plans as they come (for example if the person is no longer interested, if they relocate, for health reasons, etc).


Indirectly Empowering Independence

As a lifestyle assistant, there are many ways we can influence independence for our people receiving support. A few examples are:


1. Helping with housework

A part of our role as lifestyle assistants is maintaining cleanliness in the home and assisting in day-to-day life. To promote independence, have your Great Mate help by delegating small tasks that are easily accomplishable; from smaller tasks such as packing the dishwasher, taking the rubbish out or putting away their clothes or bigger tasks such as cleaning their room, ordering groceries online or booking appointments over the phone or on a website.



2. Speaking up

Promoting independence also means having the opportunity to speak up. Remind your Great Mate that they are in a safe place and allow them to voice any concerns or queries they may have.


Having your voice be heard helps build confidence and independence, knowing for the future that if they ever need assistance, they can speak up! This can also be used when ordering at a restaurant, asking for assistance from a shopkeeper or advocating for themselves at their doctor’s office.



3. A judgement free zone

Sometimes a Great Mate may have been met with judgement in their lives, often being felt unimportant, overlooked or incapable of living fulfilled lives which can feed anxieties, resulting in individuals feeling ‘small’.


Remind them that they are in a judgement-free zone and always have an encouraging word for them! Some days can be hard and there will be talk about giving up or feeling as if they aren’t good enough but remind them that they are completely capable if they put their mind to it and you are here to support them.


Coming to work with a supportive energy will help your Great Mate feel empowered, and confident and promote independence.


“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Many resources can help our journey to empowering independence for our Great Mates! Jump online and have a look at websites, speak to your team and most importantly, speak to your Great Mate! As we love to say at Great Mates: “We help people with different abilities take control of their lives”.


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