Hospice Care Week is an annual awareness-raising week to raise the profile of hospice care across the UK and we want to show some of the vital work that these charities do not just for patients but for families too.
This year the theme is Connecting Care and hospices are highlighting the special role that they play in connecting individuals and families, connecting with local communities and with partner organisations.
The aim of hospice care is to improve the lives of people who have an incurable illness. Hospices provide care for people from the point at which their illness is diagnosed as terminal, to the end of their life, however long that may be.
And, there are lots of different charities who can help spanning from East Cheshire, across the High Peak over to Chesterfield and beyond.
Wendy Booth from Dove Holes lived with ovarian cancer for a number of years and was greatly helped by local services including Blythe House Hospice, Derbyshire Adult Care and Ashgate Hospicecare.
Wendy’s daughter, Tanya, shares her story on the continuity of care her mum received from all three services.
“When mum started going to Blythe House, we felt happy that she was getting the specialist support she needed and was able to manage her illness herself to some extent.
We were worried that it would all fall down to the family but we really wanted mum to keep more control. Blythe House enabled all of that, independence for mum and reassurance for us. Throughout her time there, Blythe House were always on the other end of the phone. They were genuinely interested in supporting us as carers and the counselling service was so helpful.”
Wendy returned home over Christmas where Derbyshire Adult Care, a service that supplies patients with social workers, provided her with a home care package. This meant that she was able to maintain her dignity and that her family could retain normal family relationships rather than becoming carers.
Tanya said: “The home carers that looked after mum were great and the social worker was absolutely fantastic. She worked with Blythe House, Ashgate Hospicecare and Derbyshire Adult Care to organise the essential equipment and care mum needed at home. She made sure that the various services were linked together and that everyone communicated with each other.”
As Wendy became more unwell, she was admitted to Ashgate Hospicecare’s Inpatient Unit where she received specialist inpatient care and support. Doctor Sarah Parnacott, who works at both Blythe House and Ashgate, acted as a link between the two services.
“Mum wasn’t anxious about going to Ashgate Hospicecare because she already knew Sarah Parnacott and felt safe in her care. Ashgate were so supportive of us staying with Mum, which was necessary given the anxiety caused by us living 25 miles away. The whole team at Ashgate really do treat people as individuals, covering my mum in her favourite scented cosmetics, laughing and comforting in equal measure and allowing her and her family to be in control of her last days. The clinical care mum received at Ashgate was second to none. Mum was the most precious person in our lives and only the best would have been good enough.”
Unfortunately, Wendy died at Ashgate Hospicecare in February 2015. She was 60. But thanks to three local organisations connecting and working together, Tanya is happy with the care that her mum received.
“Although both hospices provide different services, they complement each other and it felt like a sister organisation. I can’t say how much the support of both hospices helped us in such a difficult time. Ashgate, Blythe House and Derbyshire Adult Care working together with mum and our family enabled Mum to have a quiet, dignified and what she would have called a ‘good death.’
“My family was lucky to have these wonderful services available and I would encourage everyone to support Hospice Care Week so that more services can be provided and people can access them as close to their home as possible.”
Janet Dunphy, Blythe House Hospice director said: “It’s becoming more and more important for statutory and voluntary organisations to work together. Although we are all unique, by linking up we have a better chance to make sure that no-one falls through the gaps. It also helps us improve efficiency, reduce costs and deliver the best possible care for our patients.”
Lucy Nickson, chief executive of Ashgate Hospicecare, added: “Hospice’s can greatly improve the care that people need by working more closely together, and by working closely with other health and social care providers. Hospice Care Week provides a brilliant opportunity to showcase the wonderful work that hospices do, and to help people get a better understanding of the real value of hospice care.”
‘It’s such a happy place to be’ says volunteer Alan
Hospice services are wide and varied and one volunteer, Alan Ashworth, 67, from East Cheshire Hospice explains what he goes through on a daily basis when he looks after people.
He has been giving his time to help others for five years and feels he gets out more than he gives back.
“It’s just such a happy place to be, that it brings me a lot of joy,” said Alan. “The fact that I’m describing a hospice as ‘happy’ might sound strange to some people who associate a Hospice with death and dying, but I even miss it when I go away on holiday and can’t wait to be back”.
Alan has now trained to act as a dementia “buddy” looking after those with dementia whilst their carers attend the well-being sessions in the Hospices’ Sunflower Centre. “A close friend who I’ve known since schooldays was diagnosed with dementia about five years ago and is now in a nursing home.”
“The course really helped me understand much more about the condition and how it impacts on the brain. For example, a shadow on the ground may appear to be a looming hole to someone with dementia causing them to be afraid or unsettled. That’s something I just didn’t appreciate before the course”.
“The work at the Hospice is wonderful and the help this service will give to the carers of people with dementia is really important, so I like to do my bit,” he said.
The new Dementia Carer Well-Being Service is urgently seeking volunteers to care for dementia sufferers to allow their full-time carer to attend a group session. Anyone wishing to help needs to be free to attend training on October 15 and volunteers are being asked to commit from 2.30pm to 5pm each Wednesday for an eight week period beginning October 28.
The new service is free although donations are welcome and there will be further eight-week courses during 2016.
To find out more about becoming a dementia buddy contact Fiona Letts, volunteer co-ordinator on 01625 610364.