Learning Disabilities; Flo’s unique approach brings independence and peace of mind

North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare 

NHS Trust 

Lisa Taylor 

Convenient, personalised and familiar technology helps college student with learning disabilities have more independence and peace of mind 

Sally is a young adult with physical and learning difficulties who lives at home with foster parents and also has a catheter in-situ. 

Thanks to the intervention of “Flo’ Sally is now independently able to care for her catheter and has the confidence to get the most out of her life outside of college and her home setting.  Sally’s Foster Mum has also been able to go to work part time, reassured that Sally is able to take responsibility for her catheter requirements and no longer needs her intervention.

For Sally, Florence provides discreet personalised support whilst providing her and her family reassurance. 

Mum: “I think now Sally has a life, without Flo she wouldn’t have had her own life outside the structure of college and home” 

Transitioning to college was an important milestone in Sally’s life and one that Sally was more than capable of achieving.  In order to make this change Sally needed to learn to look after her own catheter care.  

Sally’s condition meant that she had a reduced concept of time and would often forget that she needed to empty her catheter bag, so at home this had been supported by Sally’s Foster Mum reminding her every two hours. 

When Sally initially started college Sally’s Foster Mum gave her reminders via phone calls and text messages and also set alerts on her phone, but Sally did not respond positively to these.  This put a strain on the family as they were worried Sally would not remember to empty her catheter potentially leading to tissue viability issues and infections.

Before Florence, Sally’s Foster Mum left work frequently to attend college to help Sally when she had forgotten to empty her catheter bag.  It also threatened Sally’s ability to remain in college if she could not be self-sufficient.  The situation was brought to a head when Sally developed compromised tissue viability and a subsequent infection due to her poor management of her catheter care. 

Sally’s family were keen for her to achieve independence and wanted to support her wish to remain at college. They were looking for a resource that would achieve this aim and at the same time not make Sally appear any different from the other students at college.  

Sally’s social worker introduced them to Florence, as a unique tool they could use to engage with Sally, reminding her to empty her catheter bag whilst utilising technology that was familiar to college students meaning that Sally wouldn’t appear different to her peers.

Florence’s interactions were scheduled around Sally’s college break times to ensure they were convenient helping Sally to take the opportunity to empty her catheter bag in real time. 

Once Sally started to use Florence, her foster parents noticed that Sally reacted quite differently to Flo’s messages than she had done previously to either messages or phone calls from her parents, or reminders set on her phone.

The personalised nature of Florence’s contact meant that Sally responded well to Flo’s prompts with Sally happily replying to confirm the completed action with Flo. Even if Sally was unable action Florence’s initial prompt at the scheduled time, Florence reminding Sally a few minutes later made all the difference as Sally may not have remembered from the original prompt. 

Sally now has her own discreet helper in Florence, and has gained independence for herself and peace of mind for her family. Using Florence in college was so successful, that Sally now uses Florence over the weekends and holidays too. 

Florence has enabled Sally to take full responsibility for her own catheter care and lead a full life at college whilst ensuring the family are much more relaxed and reassured that she is looking after her catheter correctly. 

This has had the extra benefit for Sally of improving her tissue viability due to less leakages and therefore also reducing the number of infections. Her Foster Mum has also enjoyed being able to go back to work part-time as she is reassured that Sally’s needs are being met. 

#Catheter Care #LearningDisabilities #LD #TotallyUnique

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