Giving the Gift of Time - Top 10 Hospice realities you may not know
So what's it like in a hospice?
Many people have asked me whether I've found the Hospice sad or even depressing. So far, I've helped serve lunch and teas to patients and their families, attended one of the weekly multi-disciplinary sessions where patients' needs and wellbeing are discussed, and attended a floor walk with the Chief Executive, where she meets patients and families visiting the Hospice.
Some of the stories I've heard have been sad, yes, but more than anything they have inspired me. Both the strength of the patients and their family and friends, as well as the incredible care they receive and camaraderie of the care team.
So to add to my top 10 charity shop realities blog, here's my list of the top 10 hospice realities you may not know...
Top 10 Hospice realities_small
More than anything I've heard really inspiring stories of love and support. People who give their time and energy to help others during their most difficult time. Whether that's those working at the Hospice caring for patients throughout the day and night; those working and volunteering in the shops or at events to raise vital funds, or carers, such as family members giving up their jobs to care for their loved ones.
2. Happy and Uplifting
The Hospice is a happy place too. Volunteers here have spoken of the laughter they hear and how they find it 'an uplifting place'. After all, no one wants to be cared for, or work somewhere sad. As someone said to me when I first started researching this project, it's simply 'a happy place where sad things happen'.
3. A Rollercoaster
A key part of the care given here is support for the psychological journey patients and their families go through. Adjusting to being in a Hospice can be really hard; from wanting to be at home, to accepting they can be best cared for here. Some people feel safe at the Hospice, some feel very vulnerable and others frustrated at the lack of independence. When it comes to getting their head around end of life, some are scared, some are ready, whilst others ask 'is this it?'. Having a care team which goes beyond simply offering medicine, but also compassion, understanding and complementary therapies, is critical.
I feel very privileged to be part of an organisation with such a dedicated, amazing care team. This team is made up of nurses, doctors, counsellors, chaplains, occupational therapists, social workers, specialists and many more. Each week they spend two hours together discussing each patient and their psychological, physical, social and spiritual needs, together with the needs of their carers, friends and family. The patients' best interests are always the key factor in any decisions that get made.
5. Not the end
Many people's understanding, my own before coming here is that those who go into a hospice don't come back out again. This is a myth. A lot of time and consideration is given to understanding where's best for the patient to be, and talking about where patients will move onto - whether it be back to their home, to a care home or staying on in the Hospice.
6. Still there for patients and carers after they leave the Hospice
The support offered for patients doesn't stop after they are discharged from the Hospice. Their bed is kept open for 48 hours after they leave, just in case they need to return. The care team also ensures the set up at home is suitable and arranges visits from specialists eg. Complementary Therapists or care packages where needed.
Support is also offered to those who have lost someone; a group made up of family and friends of patients meet regularly, supporting and socialising together. This gives them an opportunity to lean on and talk to those who understand, having been through a similar situation. There was even a wedding between two of the group members!
7. Patients' Needs #1
Patients' needs and wishes are always the priority, and therefore understanding these and treating each patient as an individual is so important. From bigger activities, like hosting weddings or New Year parties in the Hospice, to smaller gestures like ensuring patients have socks on in bed at night, or can bring their cat from home into the Hospice. Making these wishes happen ensures each patient has what matters to them in the time they have left.
8. In Demand
The Hospice constantly has a waiting list of patients needing specialist care, but who they don't have enough beds to support. This is particularly difficulty with end-of-life care, where there is a very narrow window of opportunity to offer the best services. This is a very hard reality for those on the waiting list, as well as for the care team here, who want to be able to offer their care to all who need it.
Linked to the above... given the level of demand, which will only increase with an ageing population, the Hospice has ambitious expansion plans to enable it to continue to support those patients and their families at their most difficult time. Charities can be viewed as stuck in their ways, or perhaps behind the times, but the reality is they do a great deal with minimal resources - and have the vision and more importantly, the energy, to make a difference and continue to drive for change.
10. Grounding and Perspective
Working here certainly puts some of those 'first world problems' we can concentrate too much on into perspective. You also see the best in people; the compassion, care and 'pulling togetherness' that often comes at life's most difficult times. And if everything I've talked about here hasn't inspired you and started to give you a sense of perspective, then how about volunteering yourself?
You can read more from Marianne over the coming months, or via her website here. Why not follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ while you're at it?