Giving Martin the keys to open up his world

Anxiety kept Martin from stepping outside of his home for over a decade. When he moved to his new home with Sense, Martin’s team did everything they could to support him and reignite his zest for life. His sister, Audrey, reflects on Martin’s incredible journey.

Talking about my brother today, I’m describing a very different person to the one he’d become in his previous home. During his time there, Martin’s world shrunk; he didn’t go out, didn’t really have hobbies and he didn’t seem to want to see people. We knew he wasn’t himself.

Martin’s always been a naturally cheerful person. He’s musical too – like today, you can hear him singing to himself around the house! And in his car, too, he loves having the radio on when he’s out and about.

Visual transcript

The film starts with Martin, a middle-aged man with dark skin and a bald head, putting on his shoes.  

Audrey: Martin has such a good quality of life now, he’s got a lovely bungalow, he’s living independently – he can listen to what he wants on his tv and radio, he’s even singing along so I know he’s happy. 

Martin opens the front door of his home and steps out into the sunny street. 

Ms Soloman: When we visit, he seems to be very cheerful. He’s really come a long way. It was a journey for him. 

Standing on the grass in front of his bungalow, Martin is arm in arm with his support worker, Sobiah, who smiles up at him. Sobiah is shorter than Martin, she wears a brown hijab and dress. 

Ms Soloman: When Martin was born, they diagnosed the tumour, sitting on the eye nerve. They couldn’t operate because if they operate on it, he wouldn’t survive. We didn’t realise how bad his eyesight would be. And the eyesight deteriorated from then. And it just went. Not only the tumour affects his sight, but his mental ability.  

There are framed photographs of Martin inside his home, alongside his Sense Award certificate – Person of the Year 2019. 

We see Martin’s medication bottles and Sobiah taking his blood pressure. They sit on the sofa to do this, while Martin squeezes a stress ball. 

Outside in Martin’s garden, his mother is sat speaking to camera. 

Ms Soloman: The doctors said he wouldn’t live to be 12 year old. 12 year old! They gave him 12 years, he’s 53 years old now. 

Next, we see Martin’s sister, Audrey, speaking to camera from the garden.  

Audrey: At one of the previous homes, Martin wasn’t really having any quality of life in there. Somebody set off a firework one time near Martin and it frightened Martin so much Martin would not leave.  

In his front room, Martin stands in front of his sofa with his arms gently folded.  As he moves around his home, we see one of his support workers touch his back reassuringly.  

Audrey: They had trouble at the other place getting him out. And I don’t even think Martin saw the light of day. He was always indoors. 

His house keys hang in the front door. 

Ms Soloman: Before the move. We had meetings at that place, a lot of meetings. People from Sense were attending. You see the family and the social workers and everybody and it was a big decision. 

The family are gathered in Martin’s conservatory, he holds their hands and stands nearby. 

Audrey: Things could only improve. Three years ago now, he came outside and touched the grass for the first time – for the first time in his early fifties. 

Out in the garden, Martin is walking through the grass with Sobiah. 

Fade to black. 

The video reappears, Martin and Sobiah open the conservatory door and step outside into the garden.  

Sobiah: I worked with Martin for four years now. Martin has definitely made a lot of progress.   

We see them walking through the garden, arm in arm, while Martin feels his way along the rope fence with the other. 

Sobiah sits and talks to camera, we see Martin’s garden in the background. 

Sobiah: We went from small goals like opening the door and, you know, maybe just stepping outside to stepping outside and touching the table. When we started taking Martin out for walks, we would maybe just reach the end of the driveway, and that was over months. And then from that point to getting him down to the local shop, it probably took us another six months. 

Martin steps out of his front door; he’s wearing a big coat and woolly hat. He’s guided into his car and Sobiah drives him to his local chip shop. Inside, they order Martin fish and chips. 

Sobiah: It’s definitely improved the quality of his life. It might just be everyday things for you, but it’s definitely been positive for Martin. 

We see Sobiah plating up the fish and chips in the kitchen. She hands Martin the plate and sprinkles salt over his food. Martin sits down to eat. 

Audrey: Sense had a very big impact on Martin’s life. He’s living independently and his confidence has grown.  They keep in regular touch. They’ll email me. They have meetings and they just they just check in to see how we are and if we’re happy with what how they’re taking care of Martin. 

Out in the sun, Martin let’s go of Sobiah’s arm and reaches out to feel the bonnet of his car.  

Sobiah: The next milestones for Martin, he’s achieved so many throughout the years. Maybe a longer car journey to get him to the beach, to have his favourite meal, the fish and chips in the sand. And hopefully, you know, he’ll get his toes out on the on the sand. 

The last shot shows Martin standing outside his open front door, with the sun shining on him.  

Ms Soloman: I’m proud of Martin, very proud of Martin. He’s come a long way.

Martin’s past experiences

Before Sense, outings in a car — or even outside of his home — had stopped being an option. We can’t be sure of what happened to make him withdraw so much. We believe that he had a frightening experience when someone set a firework off near Martin in a previous home. It upset him so much that he stopped going out. For years he wouldn’t even open a window.

We’d go to visit and always find him sitting indoors. He’d just wander around from room to room. There wasn’t really anything going on to engage him, not when we went at least. It seemed the staff there were struggling to support him.

Martin standing in his front room, listening to music playing on the radio.

There were a lot of meetings between us and social services, who then arranged to meet with people from Sense. We all decided that the best thing for Martin was to move. His quality of life just wasn’t there. He wasn’t speaking much and had developed more challenging behaviours.

The move was definitely the right thing for Martin. His quality of life now has shot up with Sense.

We’re all excited for Martin’s future

Giving Martin his own home has been brilliant, a huge step for his independence and happiness. He gets a lot from being able to make his own tea, tidy up after himself and run his own home, all with the support he needs. I know the team have put in a lot of work to slowly give Martin opportunities and confidence to do new things. They know him really well now.

Martin and his support worker, Sobiah, walking home after stepping out to enjoy the sun.

When mum and I got the call to say Martin had been going on trips outside, we were so proud. It took many, many months of work for him to be able to go past the end of his drive, so it was a really big deal.

It started with small steps; opening the windows and garden doors; stepping out to feel the grass under his feet for the first time in over a decade; venturing to the end of his road; and then, months later, even going to his local shop.

Now, Martin’s just been away on his first holiday! His Sense team arranged to take him to Sherwood Forest for a long weekend and seemed to do really well. He asked to go out every morning, he was loving the sounds of nature all around him.

Sense send us updates on Martin’s progress all the time. Over the last few years, Martin’s been bowling, he’s been to Christmas pantos, he’s been out to restaurants – none of this was part of his life before.

What’s next for Martin? Well, I know his team have started planning a trip to the beach! So, we’re excited to see how that goes. He’ll also be coming to his mum’s for dinner soon – it’s been great to feel like our connection with Martin is growing stronger now that he’s in a better place.