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Caroline Money and June Jackson (pictured in image right) are virtual ward healthcare assistants who visit patients in their last weeks of life to help with all hygiene needs such as washing and mouth care, as well as providing support to the family, in the comfort of their own homes.
Caroline said: “Working at Christmas means that our patients can enjoy the time with their loved ones in the comfort of their own home. I can have my Christmas another day. It warms my heart to known what a difference we all make.”
Emma Mazerolle (pictured below) is a clinical nurse specialist who also supports people at home: “It’s such a privilege to be a part of making a patient’s last Christmas as comfortable as it can be at home with their family. Our patients and families have told me how grateful they are for the face to face contact at this time of year when no other services are open or visiting patients at home.”
St Helena Hospice’s SinglePoint is available 24/7 for patients, families and carers to phone for help and advice, and it may be that a clinical nurse specialist, like Richard Welby, needs to make a rapid response visit.
Richard (pictured below) said: “Helping to support patients and their families at home can be rewarding and challenging at most times of the year but particularly so over the Christmas and New Year period, as in our society we are traditionally celebrating the festive season and reflecting back on the previous year and thinking about the year to come. It is always a privilege to serve our community but working at this time of year always brings into focus how important it is to be available for our patients and families.”
At the hospice in Colchester, staff and volunteers try to make the atmosphere as homely as possible for patients who are admitted. The maintenance team adds little extra sparkles such as putting up fairy lights around the hospice garden, and nurses, clinical staff and doctors sing carols outside.
Inside, the real trees, which were donated by Fred Smith Christmas Trees, are decorated while festive music plays along the corridor.
Food is an important part of Christmas celebrations for many and the hospice keeps up the tradition with Debbie Spratt, hospice catering manager, (pictured right) and the kitchen team preparing a feast. Debbie: “At this time of the year the whole catering team pulls together to make festive meals for patients to enjoy. Everything is homemade, so in the run up to Christmas we’re making puddings and mince pies in between preparing the daily meals. It’s a real team effort because we know this could be someone’s last Christmas and we all want to make it extra special for them.”
For people missing a loved one at Christmas, Lorraine Blanking, bereavement service manager, [PHOTO SHH 012] understands this time of year can be difficult: “Christmas can be a magical time of year for adults and children alike, with the hope of a New Year full of peace and happiness just around the corner. For those that are grieving however, the thought of spending Christmas without a loved one or seeing in the start of a New Year together can leave them feeling overwhelmingly empty. Many clients choose to have a break from support during the festive period, while some feel the support gets them through this difficult time. Grief is often a lonely experience, but the St Helena Bereavement service ensures they do not have to be alone.”
Karen Fulcher, clinical support worker at the hospice: “It’s lovely working Christmas Day making patients feel happy and being with their families, and supporting them throughout the festive period, because this may be their last Christmas and we want to make it as special as we possibly can.”
Rick Armstong, hospice nurse: “Whilst we all realise that Christmas is an important time of year for our families and loved ones, I feel privileged to be able to try and make Christmas a special time of year for the patients and relatives we serve during their stay at the hospice. It can be a difficult time. As I am working Christmas Eve night, I realise that I will go home in the morning to spend time with my family. It makes me appreciate things a little more.”
Dr Emma Tempest, medical director: “Christmas is a time of mixed emotions; an opportunity to make memories but also a time where the world can seem to be celebrating oblivious to your personal circumstance or loss. We see both and are happy to support whatever people need from us at the hospice and at home.
Bridget Russell, specialist occupational therapist: “Like snowflakes, no two people are the same. This includes what is meaningful to an individual, whether they are at the hospice or at home. As part of our role as occupational therapists, we visit people's homes, and with them and their families discuss a way forward. And then, along with the wider team, we try to enable people to spend quality time at home, particularly at this time of year, if that is their wish.”
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