"They were happy and we were laughing"
When it was time to discuss hospice care for her mum, Rhia had quite a challenge to bring her dad around to the word ‘hospice’. In this short film, Rhia talks about her family’s journey and their experience with St Helena Hospice. Here you can read the transcript:
Mum was quite a character, acquired taste I think people would say, quite a fire cracker. Heart of gold, would do anything for anyone, and loved her family, meant nothing more than doing things for the children and my dad. She worked hard all her life. She was just fun to be around. We would do so many things together especially mum and daughter. It was really, really lovely. Lovely lady.
It was lung cancer to start with and then it progressed over the three years and spread. At that stage when we discussed hospices, she was quite poorly so she knew she needed some help and was quite positive.
It was my dad who didn’t really like the hospice word because he’s an old school guy - hospices are white walls, hospital beds, ‘keep everyone away, this is where they go to die’ and it was me who said, hang on, it isn’t like that; there’s fun and things they can do and such amazing people there.
I had to bring him around to the word hospice, which was quite a challenge actually.
Because mum knew my dad was struggling, she knew this was the time he needed help and he was devastated that she had to go. He felt, not that he’d given up on her, but he felt he couldn’t do anymore. He felt so sad that he couldn’t… because you protect your family don’t you, you don’t want them to go anywhere. He felt really sorrowful for himself but once he had gone in there [to the IPU at Myland Hall] he knew what was going on around him. He saw the people, and the nurses and the cleaners, anyone who came in the room; they were happy and we were laughing. It was so… light-hearted, I think is the word I want, and friendly, very friendly.
It’s lovely, it’s a home, it’s not a hospital. Although when you get in the room there is an odd machine or something it was very, very homely. The views are amazing. Mum loved her gardens and flowers, so her room was lovely and she could see people walking around. You’ve got your TVs, your radios, you can take anything in that you wanted. She had her own plants and things in there. It wasn’t scary; it was comfortable, really comfortable to walk in knowing what you were going to be dealing with. I suppose you never know really what to expect when you walk through a door, but I was relieved that first step into the front door and the receptionist and onwards; I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I knew that was where she needed to be and she would get the care that she needed.
My son thought it was grandma’s new home so he couldn’t wait to get up there, to see the cat, follow the cat around. He would go to the play room and get all the toys out and he thought it was amazing, he absolutely loved it there. My daughter again would go to the play room or we would go and have a coffee or something to eat. And going in and out with mum, the children had a bit of freedom, so for me [it was reassuring] having the children there and still having some fun. They would draw mum a picture and go and take it up and put it on her little corkboard. It was nice because it was a family thing it wasn’t just the adults in there doing the adult parts, the children were so involved. It was really lovely. It was really relaxing, and comfortable, everybody was comfortable there.
Mum was the sort of person to say there’s always someone worse off than me. So bringing herself into a problem like this, she wasn’t having any of it, right until the end. So when we got nearer to the end, I said to her you’re allowed to take this bit of dignity, you’re allowed to say actually that hurts or I didn’t like that. She found that quite hard and it was then, near the end, that she decided that she could cry and give that extra cuddle and that sort of things.
I don’t think mum was really aware of what was going on when she was in there. She really was in a bad way when got in unfortunately, but it has changed my dad’s idea on hospices. He was so shocked at how welcoming and how friendly it was. Dad got to go have a meal, it wasn’t very expensive or sometimes they supplied it. And you just think that was really nice that he knew she was safe, he could go off and have five minutes to himself and then come back.
People need to be more aware of what a good thing it actually is rather than a scary thing because it’s not. I would never put my children in a scary place and they loved it there. It made what was going on light-hearted. It was just amazing, it really was.
I sat with mum on her final day and the people walking past her door must have thought I was barmy. I had her radio on, we were singing and she was away, bless her, she was out of it completely, that was her last stage. I was holding her hand and I was singing to her, I had a little dance with her, holding her hand. And I sat with her for six hours solid I think it was, if not a bit longer.
I had to go home to get my children and the minute I left, I got a call saying I needed to go back. By the time I got there she had gone and what I understand from my dad is that she opened her eyes for the first time in two days, she looked around and passed away just as I got back to say goodbye.
I think to have had that experience was just amazing, and she had waited for me to go, and that’s a mum at the end of the day, isn’t it? Mum’s always just wait until you’re not around to protect their children.
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