Diary of a Shakespeare Hospice Nurse
Thursday 25 August 2016
The Shakespeare Hospice was set up 16 years ago, with the help of local fundraising. Since then it has grown to be a vital support for the communities of Stratford, Alcester, Henley, Southam, Shipston and the surrounding villages. Although the hospice has a huge presence in the area and is instantly recognisable by it’s purple logo, not many people are aware of the extensive services that the hospice provides, especially that of the Hospice at Home team.
For some patients living with a life limiting illness, a hospice or hospital is the best place for them in their final weeks but many people, (Government statistics say this is around 74%), would prefer the choice of being in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by their loved ones until the end. The Shakespeare Hospice believe you should have a right to choose and thanks to the fundraising support the hospice receive from the public, they are able to fund a team of nurses who provide specialist nursing care for the patients’ last few weeks, in their own home if they wish. More recently the area which the hospice is able to service has increased to include Kenilworth and Southam, as well as the vast area of Warwickshire and the North Cotswolds they already cover.
For many families, looking after a loved one in their final stages of life, can be immensely difficult and emotional support is vital. The Hospice at Home team provide support for carers and family members, building up close relationships with them, not just during this difficult time but also helping them in the bereavement period too. The Hospice at Home team also provide a 24/7 nurse led emergency call out service. This allow carers and family members to be secure in the knowledge that their loved ones will be cared for in the comfort of their own home with the individual support that they need, should something happen during the night.
Alison Jeynes is one of the nurses for The Shakespeare Hospice who visits patients for the Hospice at Home service. Her typical day can involve seeing as many as 5 separate patients, all with life limiting illnesses. Most of her patients are in the end stages of cancer and other illnesses and often beyond treatment. Sadly, cancer doesn’t discriminate by age or circumstance. Here we follow Alison on a typical evening as part of the Hospice at Home team.
6:30pm - My twilight shift starts. This is when l visit those who wish to stay in the comfort of their own home. My first patient is Nicola*. She is in her early 50’s and has End Stage Breast Cancer. She lives with her husband and has four children from 18 to 27. I arrive to find Nicola bright and alert in bed. Unfortunately, due to the advanced cancer that has spread throughout her body she has great difficulty eating but I am pleased that she was able to eat today, albeit very little. As I help her with her bedtime routine, she is in good spirits and has a smile for me. I know she is in immense pain but the strength she has amazes me.
8pm - I travel on to see my next patient, an elderly gentleman called John*. He and his wife have no children but they have been together for many years and have rarely been apart in all that time. John has End Stage Lung Cancer and his wife is his main carer. The hospice provides support for carers and family members helping their loved ones and it is important I make sure she has as much support as possible, particularly as she is alone at home with John most of the time. Unfortunately, due to John’s cancer, pain management is very difficult for him and he is often in great discomfort. There is little I can do for him at this stage. I try to make him as comfortable as I can for the evening but I know it will probably be a long night for them both.
10pm - My last visit for the evening is, Jane*. Her story is one of the hardest for me emotionally. She is in her early 40’s. A loving wife and fantastic mother to four children aged just 5 to 17. It’s always heart breaking when children are so young and have to deal with losing a parent but the positivity of patients like Jane and her determination to live life to the full inspire me. Jane also has End Stage Breast Cancer but only a few weeks ago she went on a family holiday with her children to leave them with happy memories, not sad ones. Sadly, Jane could only watch but just being there with her family meant everything.
Genuinely one of the most positive people you could meet, she is active on the Breast Cancer Forum, providing moral support to other victims of this awful disease, while she suffers bravely herself. Many people in her situation with such a young family, would understandably feel so angry at this card dealt to them. I admire her determination not to let Cancer have the last word. After a tear filled conversation with her mother and brother who are positive to stay strong for her, as she has done for so many others, I finish my shift for the night.
I will be back in the hospice first thing tomorrow morning for the new day. The hardest part is building close relationships with the families, knowing the grief they will eventually go through. My reward is being able to help our patients with their end of life journey and making sure, as best I can that they have all the dignity and care that I, as a Shakespeare Nurse can give. I wouldn’t change my job for anything.
Just £30 can buy bereavement workbooks for 3 children who are receiving support from The Shakespeare Hospice. £40 helps to pay for an emergency helpline, ensuring the Hospice at Home team are on call 24/7 for those wishing to die in their own home and just £339 can pay for a team of hospice nurses for the day covering the whole of South Warwickshire and the North Cotswolds.
Visit the website www.theshakespearehospice.org.uk/event or call 01789 266852.