My daughter Marcia, who is currently 45, was 23 when she moved into accommodation with McFarlane Trust in 2000. We knew of McFarlane from its inception, as our daughter had been at Clippens School which was run by McFarlane’s founder, Doreen McFarlane. She was a wonderful woman. She discovered there were children at Elderslie Hospital that didn’t have schooling, so she brought them into Clippens school to teach them. She took children overnight as she saw parents weren’t coping. She went above and beyond for children and adults with complex needs at a time when no one was doing much for them. As a result, we were all friendly with Doreen.
When McFarlane Homes was formed, we immediately had every faith that Doreen would do something amazing with this new endeavour. She had such great insight into what people with complex needs required to live full and happy lives.
My husband and I’s experience with Marcia growing up was, at times, difficult. We were told when she was born that she wouldn’t walk or talk, which was absolutely devastating. There were very few people with the same chromosome abnormality at the time and little to no education on it. However, Marcia surprised us and developed in ways we never expected. She began to walk at age 5 and eventually developed some verbal capabilities around 6 or 7. Her speech is repetitive, and it can be difficult to engage with if you’re not used to it, but she is quite developed compared to other people with the same condition.
We were approached by Doreen to consider moving Marcia into accommodation early on. She knew we had been struggling with long, sleepless nights for many years. Marcia requires 24/7 care and is up a lot during the night. We weren’t quite emotionally ready to have Marcia move out, but we knew we needed the respite. After some consideration, and after seeing the flat, we took the opportunity.
Marcia moved in with 4 other residents from her school. We were so thankful that she knew the people she would be living with and thought it would be a great opportunity for her to grow. We were grateful to be included throughout the moving process and involved in any decision-making. It’s not to say the transition was easy for us. We went from 24-hour care, to essentially giving no care at all – that was quite an adjustment. When your life revolves around your child and their needs for so long, the respite can feel quite lonely and it’s hard to know what to do with yourself. I ended up taking some work at Clippens School because my life felt so quiet without Marcia in the house – if you know her, you know how much she’s heard in any room she’s in!
Despite the growing pains of going from 24/7 care to visits, we know Marcia moving to McFarlane housing was the best thing we ever did for her. You can see how happy she is, and we get to see her all the time. She’s as good as gold and the staff love her.
Marcia adores her flatmates to bits however she can’t get the same level of feedback from them as she does with the staff. The staff are great with Marcia – she’ll talk all day if she can, but they still keep her engaged and ask her questions. We can tell she loves chatting with the staff and feels heard and understood even if it’s not outwardly understandable speech. She’s still up and down in the night but the staff can lead her back to bed, she listens to them more than she listens to me!
We’re so grateful to Doreen for the opportunity to give Marcia this kind of life, and to give us the life we have now too. You don’t realise how much you need the support of an organisation like McFarlane Trust until you get it. Seeing how cared for Marcia was, and still is, confirmed that this was absolutely the right decision for her. We still see her on Wednesdays and Saturdays and still have her at the house for overnights sometimes. That time we get with her is now quality time instead of the round-the-clock care we gave before. She really has come on leaps and bounds in her time at McFarlane. We would absolutely recommend McFarlane Trust to other parents in our situation.