A person we support at the breakfast table clinking tea cups with a support worker

When falling asleep is a wake up call – how Matt came off his meds

When a 63-year-old autistic gentleman we support, whom we will call Matt (not his real name or photo), started spending over 48 hours in bed, his team had a wake-up call.

Yes, it was lockdown and Matt has a history of spending a long time in bed, but 48 hours plus? Maybe it would not be so bad if we were sure that’s where he was happy to be, and he ate, drank and engaged with us like he used to, but he wasn’t even sitting up to take his meds.

This was out of character.

Matt is a lively, active, engaged gentleman, even if he likes his bed. All attempts to engage Matt in the things he likes were unsuccessful.

Silence can say a thousand words, particularly when accompanied by a blank stare.

The team tried everything from redecorating his flat to getting a health check with the doctor, optician, and dentist. And he was, fine, fine, fine – but there was another problem when he was up, he would eat, eat eat.

Putting yourself in Matt’s support workers shoes, what would you do?

The team sat down with Matt to work out what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it, all through pictures, for instance:

Mondays, Matt likes to go to the pub for lunch, so as soon as the pub opened again, Matt went, and the team shot pictures whilst he shot pool balls. Now he lets us know he wants to go by taking the picture off his activity list and giving it to us.

Tuesdays are Matt’s focus, or key workday, as he calls it. He knows he is going shopping for his food for the week, so, now there are pictures of shopping on his activity list.

Wednesdays, Matt loves to bake a cake, a tray of biscuits or whatever he wants, so yes, now we have pictures of baking for Matt to give to us – luckily, this was something we could do in lockdown.

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are all free for other activities, and this was hard to fill during lockdown, so here’s what we did:

Daily, Matt loves to walk to the shops to get a magazine and a snack, so during lockdown, the team got hold of some monopoly money and a basket and turned their office into a corner shop!

In the beginning this worked!

Matt shopped in the office daily, exchanging monopoly money for his magazine and snacks, but as lockdown got longer, so did Matt’s time in bed.

Matt had been on anti-psychotic medication three times a day for at least thirteen years.

So, the team consulted Matt’s psychiatrist and GP and conducted a best interest meeting. After a couple of meetings, it got reduced to twice a day.

Six months later, no change.

So, another best interests meeting and reduction later, Matt went down to one nine o’clock pm pill.

Six months and a slight change later, Matt was starting to engage.

So, a third best interests meeting resulted in Matt coming off his meds!

That was a couple of months ago, and at first, it was hard to gauge how he was doing because Matt got Covid and took to his bed as anyone would, but now he is up, about and engaging. Matt’s anxieties and obsessions have increased a little, but there has been no increase in distress behaviours, and he is coping very well.

“So well in fact, that Matt is no longer binge eating. You can leave a whole pack of biscuits in his barrel, and he will have only a couple stating -, “I don’t want to be sick.” We are finding another way to deal with Matt’s anxiety and obsessions, and he is coping well”.

– Matt’s team

When things stay the same for a very long time, they become routine, then one day something happens to wake you up and change your life.

Does Matt’s story feel like a wake-up call for you to change your life too?

If you feel called to make a difference by helping the people we support get more from life, then find out if becoming a support worker would be a good move for you with our quiz here.

The Dimensions group (which Discovery is a part of) has been officially accredited as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute for two years running. Additionally, this year, we received a “Wellbeing” award and a “Great Workplace for Women” award.