Jacky works mainly night shifts when families often feel overwhelmed and frightened by what lies ahead. “You always take a deep breath before you knock on that door and go in, with a smile on your face. You never know what you’re going to face - but I always tell people I have broad shoulders, so please use them.
“I have nursed newborn lambs when caring for farming families - and once, I remember, there were 27 dogs in the home. We respect the fact that people want to die at home - and we try our very best to cater for all their needs to make them as comfortable and pain free as possible. So if someone wants their dogs curled up on the bed with them for comfort, that’s fine with us.”
Nurses at HHWC take time to really get to know the patients and families as they can be working with them for months at a time. “People are referred to us when they are told that they have, at most, 12 months left of life,” said Senior Registered Nurse Rachael Rooney. “There is a lot of living that can be done in 12 months and it is a privilege to support patients and families through this very precious time.”
Complementary therapists are also on hand to support patients and carers with a range of soothing treatments to relieve stress and anxiety. And once a patient has sadly died, family and bereavement support workers are on hand to continue to support families as they learn to live without their loved one.
Patient Care and Support Coordinator Donna Marsden visits families after a death to see how they are and to raise awareness of the continuing support on offer. “We don’t abandon families after a death,” said Donna. “We make strong connections with people and it’s important that they know we are still here for them, for as long as they need us, whether that’s a session with a family and bereavement support worker or one of our complementary therapists.”
Before they are touched by hospice care, people are often frightened about what it represents, said Nurse Yvonne Stevens. “But we can reassure them that there is support not just for the patient but the families too. People think the hospice means the end, but our patients mean so much to us and there is so much we can do to make a person feel worthwhile, cared for, listened to and understood.”
For Yvonne, it is spending time with patients and families in their own homes that makes her job so special - with care, compassion, empathy and understanding at the heart of hospice care. “It is always such a privilege when people open up and talk about how they feel. We have the time - and that is so precious.”
In her role as Director of Fundraising and Communications at HHWC, Hayley McKay often hears stories from families keen to talk about the impact that the hospice has had on them. And she is bowled over by the generosity of The Cumberland whose donation ensures that this highly valued care can continue to make a difference for so many families: “Thank you so much. I know we say it a lot, but we really mean it. The ongoing support from The Cumberland is hugely valued. We simply could not survive without the support of The Cumberland and our supporters in our local communities.”
It’s all very humbling, says The Cumberland’s chief customer officer Claire Deekes. “I want to say thank you, on behalf of our members, to all our hospices for doing such a wonderful job. The care they provide, day in, day out, is incredible.”
When you think of hospice care, people’s immediate thought is of the wonderful nursing teams. But alongside the nurses is a huge army of staff and volunteers including family and bereavement support workers, befrienders and housekeepers who are all incredibly grateful for The Cumberland’s generous donation.