If a friend told you that they were going to a Hospice for a while, what would you think? That it was ‘only a matter of time’? That there’s no hope for them?
For too many people, the mere mention of the word ‘hospice’ still triggers a deep felt emotion of sadness and fear; somewhere to go when the end is close by. And yet others have found, possibly to their surprise, that a hospice is a place of calm and love, of laughter and support and of life. Last week, it was Hospice Care Week and in support, today we tackle and hopefully lay some myths aside as to what a hospice is and what it isn’t.
When you go into a hospice, people often think it’s the last chapter of a life and yes, that’s part of it. Yes, a hospice provides support for people with a terminal illness, an illness that is not responsive to treatment or a cure. But there are so many other reasons to go into a hospice. Sometimes, people who only need somewhere to go for a short while can stay, then leave and go home.
A hospice can provide temporary care; to stabilise medication, give someone an opportunity to recover from an operation before going home, to have a break or to give their carers a break. Someone could visit several times and for various lengths of time. This all depends on what their GP and health or care professionals advise. If someone wanted to explore the option of staying in a hospice, their GP can advise the options available.
As part of Hospice Care Week, a member of the Adult Social Care communications team, and ex-Wheatfields fundraiser, fondly recalls her experiences and celebrates the wonderful care and support that can be found there.
In your experience, what’s a hospice like?
One description I heard many times was that Wheatfields was like a 4 star hotel whilst also feeling like a home from home. There are single rooms or shared rooms depending on what people prefer and it’s up to the individual what they choose.
Wheatfields has busy, social areas, quiet contemplative spots and lovely gardens. The building layout means the bedrooms were very peaceful and undisturbed and the gardens extended right up to the windows. There was one mature Mahonia bush that was home every year to a nesting black bird. Because of the way the bush leaned near the window, the nest and baby birds, could be easily seen by passers-by. Each year everyone looked out for them.
What happens when someone goes to stay?
Basically whatever they want or are capable of. Of course, medical needs are taken care of but they can also have physiotherapy, occupational therapy, creative art therapy and other complementary therapies. Massage therapies were always popular. Many patients described how lovely it was to be touched and not as part of a medical procedure. Spiritual needs were also catered for thanks to visits from local religious groups.
Didn’t it depress you working at the hospice?
People were always surprised how positive it was to work at Wheatfields and it was amazing to be part of such an affirmative family with everyone working together. Of course, it can be really sad when you become close to someone who was once a stranger, becomes a friend and then passes away or leaves. But as I always used to say; it was so much more comforting to know that whatever the reason for someone being there, they were surrounded by peace, often laughter and not on their own. It’s the last part that makes a difference in my opinion – the not being alone. Of the many things you could guarantee there, one was knowing you never needed to be isolated if you didn’t want to.
Why do people become volunteers?
Wheatfields supported the whole family not just the patient and many people wanted to give something back to the hospice by volunteering to work either in the Hospice, or as gardeners, administrative support, drivers or fundraisers themselves. The voluntary work often helped people with their bereavements.
What was it like working with volunteers?
It was a privilege to work with them: they had a bank of fascinating stories and amazing experiences and it was so much fun. They’re role models and I still aspire to have the same spirit and generosity that they have. For me, they were what made me feel proud to be part of it all.
What would you want people to think about hospices now?
That they are wonderful, supportive places and full of life’s joyful and uplifting experiences.
If you want to know more about the work of hospices, or know someone who may benefit from a stay in a hospice or are interested in volunteering, there are two hospices for adults in Leeds.
To get in touch:
Wheatfields Hospice in Headingley http://www.sueryder.org/What-we-do/Care-centres/Wheatfields and St Gemma’s Hospice in Moortown http://www.st-gemma.co.uk/