26 Feb 2013
Posted in: Day Care
For many it is still a taboo subject, but dealing with death in a sensitive caring way is what St Barnabas’s Hospice are most proud of and how their patients are treated with the upmost dignity.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a patient who is receiving care and support in our In-patient unit, through our Hospice at Home teams, visiting a Day Therapy session or being guided by our welfare and family support teams that same level of sensitivity and dignity is given by all of our staff and volunteers.
Last week we spoke about the care and services available from our Day Therapy teams, this week it’s all about our dedicated Hospice at Home teams and our In-Patient Unit.
Our Hospice at Home teams operate all over Lincolnshire and provide care for people in their own homes who are over 18, and in the final stages of their life-limiting disease.
All the referrals to Hospice at Home come from other health care professionals, usually the case managers, who the teams work very closely with.
Clinical Team Lead for Hospice at Home’s north west area Sarah Coleman said: “People don’t have to have a cancer diagnosis to use our service - for example we also care for those with Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease and any other life-limiting illness.”
The Hospice at Home nurses begin by assessing patients in their own home and with their own family. Following the assessment a plan of care will be decided with both the patients and the families input.
“As a commissioned specialist palliative care team we aim to provide high standard end-of-life care,” explained Sarah. “Our visits to the patient’s home range from weekly up to twice a day depending on their needs. Patients are reviewed regularly and the care provided adjusted accordingly. Working in partnership with other healthcare providers is key to ensuring integrated care,” she added.
“We provide personalised care for the patients, and also provide support to their carers,” she said.
Our Hospice at Home service operates seven days a week 365 days a year, even on Christmas Day our nurses are out in the community and could well be caring for one of your neighbours. The teams are made up of qualified nurses, healthcare support workers and an office-based co-ordinator, all are on hand if ever there is a problem or if patients and their families have any questions, nothing is ever too much for this dedicated team.
Sarah said: “Patients and their loved ones often feed back to us the importance of laughter in their lives, and the team find, when appropriate, this often helps families face the following hours, days or weeks.”
Stuart Jameson and his family can echo Sarah’s sentiments when they were supported by the Louth Hospice at Home team in 2009 when his Wife, Ann, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and initially responded well to treatment, unfortunately three years ago the cancer returned very aggressively and she was admitted to hospital in Louth and it became apparent that she was dying.
Through the care and support given in Ann’s home by our Hospice at Home Nurses, Ann’s family members, children and friends were able to spend time with her in her final weeks, which would have not been as easy had she been in hospital.
Victoria, Ann’s daughter, said, “Hospice at Home support gave the family the confidence to care for for my mum at home, where she wanted to be. It also ensured that my dad was not alone, especially as they live in a very rural area, and removed the pressure of caring for a loved one at such a vulnerable time.
We wouldn’t have been able to cope without the wonderful support the Hospice at Home team gave together with the District Nurses.”
Stuart and the family are very grateful for the support St Barnabas gave that they organise events and also attend Hospice events in the Louth area - and will be joining the Louth Light up a Life celebrations at the Trinity Centre on Wednesday 19th December.
Having worked for St Barnabas Hospice for four years, Sarah said: “I have always had a passion to work in palliative care. I think that those who work in this field have a true passion to ensure patients receive a dignified death - and those left behind are able to move on knowing their loved ones were cared for with compassion and empathy.”
She recalls going to see a man in his 80s who was due for discharge from hospital. “When I got to the hospital he was curled up in a ball under his quilt and didn’t respond. I told him he would be home and in his own bed that same night. I arrived at his house an hour after he arrived home to find him in his favourite armchair serenading me with his favourite song.
“Working together with other healthcare professionals, we cared for him in his own bed in the front room until he died peacefully a few weeks later,” she said.
Sarah added: “Our experiences have taught us it is the small things that really do make the difference.”
That is a sentiment echoed by Ward Manager of the St Barnabas Inpatient Unit, Sue Carter, who describes the unit as a happy place with lots of laughter. “It’s very relaxed but highly professional,” she said.
The 11-bed inpatient unit caters for the complex symptom management needs of palliative patients. “It’s not always possible to give that care in the community, and if appropriate, while they are here, they can also have some rehab with the physio to further enhance their quality of life,” said Sue.
In the past 12 months we have cared and supported over 180 patients who have come into the inpatient unit and over 50 per cent have been discharged back into their home environment after an average stay of 10 to 12 days.
One of the aims for the team is to support patients in returning home where possible - and they have had a recent success story which Sue has shared with us:
“We had a lady who was transferred to us and it was her wish to return to the country of her birth. By working with her and her family we were able to get her back to Poland where she was able to spend her last few days, which is just what she wanted,” said Sue.
“We started organising everything on the Thursday and she was able to leave here at 1am on the Saturday. To help facilitate getting this lady home was so brilliant. The team felt very satisfied and very proud” she added.
It just emphasises how important advanced care planning is. Advanced care planning is a way for patients to maintain control over what happens to them by recording what their wishes are for their future care.
Sue, who previously worked for the Hospice at Home team, has been working as ward manager of the inpatient unit for the last year.
“I always wanted to do palliative care. It’s all about making a difference and to be able to empower a team to make such a difference is very rewarding, however challenging,” she said.
It is important to us that we can accommodate the needs not just of the patients but their families too, and we have facilities to ensure we can do this. There are two flats that are available and can be used if agreed with the nurse in charge.
Sue remembers two teenagers whose mother was in the inpatient unit over Christmas.
“They wanted to be with their mum so by using our facilities they were able to have a family Christmas,” said Sue.
Whilst many patients are discharged home, some do spend their final days at the hospice. “It is nice to allow our patients the most dignified end possible. We’re very privileged to be in that position,” she said.