Thoughts and insights from the Tailored Yarn team
How hospices are providing vital support in extraordinary times
The pandemic has placed additional pressure on the country’s hospices, but hospice teams have found ways to offer comfort to people just when it’s needed the most.
Every year in the UK, hospices care for around 225,000 people with terminal or life-limiting illnesses. The work they do ranges from helping patients manage pain, looking after people’s emotional and spiritual needs, and improving the quality of their lives.
Hospices also offer much-needed support to family, friends and loved ones.
Although they are there to help people through their most challenging moments, hospices are often happy and peaceful places where people can spend their final days surrounded by those they love.
However, when the pandemic took hold, everything changed.
Adapting to restrictions
The daughter of a patient at St Helena Hospice in Colchester reflects on her experience in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wanted everybody to see mum – siblings, cousins – we had plans for all of mum’s friends to visit,” explains Louisa Brewster.
“First came the hand sanitiser stations, then the restricted visiting hours, then the markers on the floor to guide social distancing. When you were really upset, nobody could cuddle you. That was the hardest thing, I think, and then came the one visitor rule.”
But the team at St Helena’s Hospice did everything they could for Louisa’s mum in her final weeks.
“Mum had what I could call a really good death,” says Louisa. “The staff were absolutely amazing – it felt like you were leaving her with family, really. They have made life and death so much easier.”
Safety and support
The pandemic prompted Dr Tony Blower at St Michael’s Hospice in Herefordshire to ask an important question.
“How do you give a dying person a reassuring smile when they cannot see your face behind your mask?”
PPE was just one of the extra considerations for Dr Blower and his team as they cared for patients during the darkest days of the pandemic. New processes had to be put in place to ensure vulnerable patients their families and staff did not become infected while still trying to provide the best possible care.
A Covid team was set up at the hospice and met every day ensuring everything was covered and everyone knew what to do to look after patients, their families and themselves.
Dr Blower soon found the answer to his question. “We tried to show the compassion in our eyes, our voice and our actions.”
Helping children with bereavement
As we continue to battle against Covid-19, illness and death feature prominently in the news, and children might find it difficult to deal with their feelings.
Ann Scanlon, Children and Young Persons Counsellor, from the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands gives some valuable advice in her blog.
“It’s important to take what children say seriously and not sweep their concerns under the carpet. Try to listen to and validate their concerns and recognise their anxieties, addressing the issues they bring up.
Ann has some suggestions to help children process their worries.
“Try having a little notebook where they can record ‘worry time’ each day. This could be 10 mins of allocated time to address all their anxiety in one go and to talk through worries with them.”
It can be a good idea to encourage children to think about the care that dying people receive, too.
“If they’re worried about all the people who are ill, reassure them that our wonderful healthcare experts are caring for them, and help them think of ways to say thank you.”
If you work for a hospice and would like to share your experiences of overcoming difficulties during the pandemic, please do get in touch – we would love to hear from you.