Saturday, 14 September 2013


When I talk about my work at the hospice, many people either change the subject or pull one of those faces and say how sad that must be.
Whilst people don't like to talk about death, the reality is that death is the one certainty in life for all of us. With the approach of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on the 12th of October, I would like to take the opportunity to describe a typical day at my workplace, a Hospice.

First off, the Hospice is not just a place for patients with palliative illness to come and die.
The staff work together as a multidisciplinary team and provide physical and emotional care to patients and their families, understanding and dignity.

The patients coming to the Daycare unit arrive and it's smiles all around as we give them a cheery welcome. Chatting is done over a cup of something warm with hopefully a good choice of biscuits! I think it is important to see them as individuals first and foremost and their illness second. For some patients, this is the only day in their week that they are able to leave the confines of their homes and mix with other people. I like to give them all nicknames which they like and it makes relationships more personal.
Some will enjoy aromatherapy massage treatments and they chatter away and tell me about their week, things they have done, people they have seen etc. But above all, we just have a good laugh, tease each other, share stories .... normal things.
When its time for afternoon tea, it's common practise for me to go around them saying that they can't possibly be hungry and won't want a piece of that yummy looking cake. We all know that this is a ruse so that there will be cake left over for me! Oh they all know what my weaknesses are!!
They leave for home feeling happier, more relaxed after having had a lovely day outside of their normal routine and already looking forward to their next visit.

I will maybe treat outpatients who just come for complementary therapy and also go and see patients who are on the inpatient unit. They all want to know what I have been up to since they last saw me, what plans I have for holidays just as friends are with each other.

Having lost my mum to lung cancer 17 years ago at the age of just 60, from a disease that took her away from her loved ones within 6 weeks of diagnosis, I thank God for Hospices and the care given to people who stay in them. My mum was able to die with comfort and dignity, with a feeling of security whilst surrounded by her family. I wish that for anyone who is dying.

The flip side of the coin is what we as people who work in Hospices get out of working in such a setting. Sometimes it can be very sad as you do form attachments to patients but above all else, I get back what I put in ten times over. Yes I really do!
I feel immensely privileged, humbled and lucky, to get to know so many of these patients. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and careers, and share their journeys with me. They are courageous, brave and dignified and make me feel so so proud of them. I love hearing about their lives, their families, their hobbies and what is important to them. They tease me, joke with me and I really don't mind in fact I love it! They are truly inspiring!!

I hope that I have raised awareness and understanding of hospices and palliative care.
I also hope that I have shown how rewarding the work is and maybe encouraged some of you to volunteer at your local Hospice in the future.

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