Grand Union Housing tenant Shelly Fitzsimmons from Tilsworth in Bedfordshire with her assistance dog Kibble. December 7 2016 Matthew Power Photography www.matthewpowerphotography.co.uk 07969 088655 mpowerphoto@yahoo.co.uk @mpowerphoto

Feeling a strong sense of security at home is hugely important to most people, and Shelley Fitzsimmons is no different. However, she has an incredible canine partner and Telecare alarm service to thank for this extra sense of security.

Shelley, 43, inherited the rare Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) at birth, which affects all her muscles, ligaments and joints, causing frequent dislocations.

“I have a lack of collagen and pretty much the whole of me can dislocate, from a disc in my neck right down to a toe. I don’t have to do anything too majorly to even do it. I could stretch out to pick up the TV remote and pop a finger or something.”

In 2008 Shelley and her family began to look into solutions that could help her as the EDS became more sever.

“I had to start using a wheelchair and I had a nervous breakdown. After this I was thrown into my disability and couldn’t do much for myself. The children and my husband were being my carers, helping to dress me.”

It was then that her 10 year old son saw someone with EDS on a TV show explaining what the assistance dogs do and how they helped them gain a little more independence.

“He saw this dog and asked if I wanted one. At the time I didn’t think I was disabled enough for one. A couple of days later an application form arrived as my son had gone online to get the process started. The more and more I heard about how they could help me, the more I wanted one.”

It wasn’t long before Shelley visited Canine Partners and was introduced to Kibble. This incredible dog had been trained how to open doors, pick up items, dress a person, use a washing machine and fetch help in an emergency.

Grand Union Housing tenant Shelly Fitzsimmons from Tilsworth in Bedfordshire with her assistance dog Kibble. December 7 2016 Matthew Power Photography www.matthewpowerphotography.co.uk 07969 088655 mpowerphoto@yahoo.co.uk @mpowerphoto

Shelley, who has become inseparable from Kibble, continued: “He acts as a companion and also my carer. It means I don’t have to have a human carer all the time and only really need someone to come in and make my lunches sometimes.

He can pull back the covers on a bad day; he can swing my legs out of the bed and pull me up to standing. He can help me into my wheelchair, can help me to the bathroom, he’s there everywhere to make sure I am safe.”

Kibble also can pass Shelley a towel when she gets out of the shower, helps her to get dressed by pulling on clothes and doing up zips and Velcro. He can even load and unload the washing machine and tumble drier.

Despite this, Shelley still needed something extra to give her the peace of mind she so needed.

She was recommended Aragon’s Telecare system by her Occupational Therapist who put her in touch with the team. They came out and did a specialist assessment which took into account all of the information about Shelley, Kibble, her home and what she wanted to get out of the system.

Following this visit, Aragon provided Shelley with a Telecare bracelet, smoke alarms and CO2 detector and even a jellybean, which is a big red button that Kibble can press with his nose.

“Having Kibble is obviously great, but having Telecare is the final piece of the puzzle.

“With Kibble and the Telecare, I know that wherever I am in the house or garden, I am safe. That means I don’t even have to be conscious to get help. “

For Kibble to use the system, Shelley shouts “bell” or if she is on the floor or unresponsive, Kibble runs up and presses the jellybean with his nose. He keeps pressing it until he hears someone on the end of the line speak to him.

Grand Union Housing tenant Shelly Fitzsimmons from Tilsworth in Bedfordshire with her assistance dog Kibble. December 7 2016 Matthew Power Photography www.matthewpowerphotography.co.uk 07969 088655 mpowerphoto@yahoo.co.uk @mpowerphoto

“Thankfully I haven’t had to use it much at all because Kibble saves me all the time, but the Telecare acts as a safety net in case anything serious happens.”

Thanks to Kibble, Canine Partners and the Telecare system, Shelley’s family don’t have to worry about leaving her at home any more. Her children’s grades are going up as they aren’t worried about their mum’s safety and her husband now only has to call occasionally from work rather than all the time to make sure she is safe.

“I would definitely recommend Telecare to anyone. It makes me feel even safer than just with Kibble. The two of them together makes me feel completely safe at home – it’s an extra safety net.”

“It’s not just old people who are disabled obviously, younger people are too and we all need that  safety in the back of your mind knowing that someone will always be around to help you.

“If you didn’t have an assistance dog like I do, you could still feel some of the security with the wristband or pendant.”

The Telecare alarm service is available to people of all age groups living in Central Bedfordshire and you do not need to be a resident of Aragon Housing Association.

You can find out more about Telecare here.

To find out more about Canine Partners and the work they do, visit: caninepartners.org.uk.