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  • The Hospice at Home team made it possible for us to forget sometimes and just live

The Hospice at Home team made it possible for us to forget sometimes and just live

My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 and it was at this point we were told it had already spread to her brain; the prognosis was weeks rather than months. This was shocking and like most families I had no idea it could happen so quickly.

My mother wanted to be cared for at home and we had the support of Hospice at Home Nurses and Health Care Assistants. It’s not always possible to keep patients at home due to their medical needs, so without the Hospice at Home team and District Nurses we would not have coped.

Like most families facing the death of a loved one, we were driving ourselves to the point of exhaustion in wanting to spend every minute we could with mum. Life came to a standstill and we existed in a twilight world without any structure or purpose.

The Hospice at Home Nurses came and stayed with mum overnight so we could sleep, promising to call us if anything changed. They came at other times and encouraged us to go out and have the break we desperately needed.

The Hospice at Home team encouraged us to live as much as we could, to have friends round for dinner, to take mum in a wheelchair to the pub and to get her out in the garden. I remember the weather was glorious that spring and my parents, who always loved barbecues, had many with friends and family.

Whenever the Hospice at Home nurses visited we felt calm and safe and there was always a lot of laughter. The nurses were able to explain the progress of mum’s disease and arrange for a hospital bed, commode and medical equipment like a nebuliser when mum needed them.

When mum stopped eating for a month they reassured us that the body could no longer cope with food; explaining that food would cause her discomfort but would not hasten her death as we feared. They suggested little things like sorbets which mum could try for the joy of taste. They were able to manage mum’s pain with the District Nurses and ensure she was comfortable - reassuring us and explaining each frightening symptom as they arose and how to deal with them. The Hospice team was always at the end of a phone and if it wasn't for them we would not have been able to honour mum’s wish to stay at home.

Intellectually, you know your loved one is going to pass away, but emotionally you can’t accept it. The Hospice nurses were with us every step of the way, reassuring us and supporting us when we felt we couldn't go on. They were so professional and compassionate that they made it possible for us to forget sometimes and just live. They gently showed us that death is a natural part of life and how to make sure that it was peaceful and full of love.

My mother outlived her prognosis by five months and I believe it was because we were shown how to enjoy the time we had left together. Yes it was unbearably sad and we were all devastated, but the Hospice at Home team showed us how to make the most out of the life mum had left.

I was full of admiration for the Hospice at Home team and they inspired me to consider a career in healthcare. I wanted to help people the way they helped us.

After bereavement, you must wait two years before applying to work or volunteer for the Hospice, to ensure you are emotionally ready and it is something you want to do. After two years I knew it was right for me and I joined Thames Hospice, training as a Health Care Assistant.