After my biological father passed away earlier this year in a hospice, I set up a website to pay tribute to Dad and to create a space where people could post stories, pictures, poems, thoughts and even donate money to the hospice who cared for him so lovingly in the final days of his life. His time in hospital had been literally awful. He was not on a cardiac ward, and the nurses who were looking after him were not the most naturally caring people. It was throughout the festive Christmas season, and I think in fairness they were mostly bank workers and severely understaffed… But in all honesty, I would not have sent my worst enemy to stay in that ward!
A few days before Dad was placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway at the hospital, the staff actually tried to discharge my father to his home, with 3 daily visits from carers… Needless to say-we disagreed, and within a few days, I got a call from the hospital telling me to come in right away (and when you get that call at 6am on a Sunday morning, you know it’s serious).
The Pilgrim’s Hospice could not have been more different! Initially I had my reservations about sending my Dad to a hospice. The stigma of ‘sending someone somewhere to die’ is a fairly big emotional burden, and I will never forget the look on my Dad’s face when the palliative care team manager came to discuss it with him, or the patient transport ride with him in the pack of an ambulance to get there… It was the most miserable and daunting experience of my life.
When we arrived however, the staff almost immediately quashed ALL of our fears, On Dad’s first night there, the whole family arrived (and there are quite a number of us).. The staff wheeled my Dad in his bed upto the chapel of rest, and we toasted my Dad with a bottle of whiskey (his favourite tipple) and my uncle brought his guitar, and the entire family played music and sing to Dad (my uncle was a pop star back in the day), to celebrate his life and give him a ‘party’ before he passed away. He was in and out of consciousness by then, and not able to talk or consume food or drink… But he opened his eyes and squeezed our hands in response to questions.
The night that we rocked out in the Chapel of Rest with my Dad in the Hospice will forever be a happy memory from a sad time. The hospice facilitated that happening and gave our family something extremely precious as a result.
Unlike the hospital staff, the hospice staff couldn’t do enough. If you pressed a bell, they were there without delay, and always with a genuine air of warmth and friendliness. Even though Dad was in a morphine coma for most of his 2 and a half days there; they tended to him with great dignity and respect, always asking his permission to do anything and not treating him like he was in a coma. I remember them always explaining to him in kind tones everything that they were going to do for him, and it was wonderful, because hearing is after all, the last thing to go.
I stayed with my father 24 hours a day during his hospice stay, and they looked after me with just as much care and attention as they did Dad. I can honestly say that if I had the choice of passing away in my own home or in a hospice if I were terminally ill, there would be no hesitation-I would hope with all my heart that I could get a place in the hospice.
Therin lies the only issue. Funding… Even the Pilgrim’s Hospice Group, who only have 3 hospices (Thanet, Canterbury and Ashford in Kent) and who offerhospice at home outreach care need to raise somewhere in the region of £8,000,000 per year! When I heard this, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to help the wonderful people continue to give the love and care that they gave to my Dad to others.
Dad’s own memorial site raised over £700 from friends and family alone, but I wanted to do something of my own to help them… When they suggested a Sponsored Sky Dive (the first one they had ever organised) I signed up immediately. I bombarded my friends and Facebook contacts for sponsorship, and was very grateful to raise in excess of £1,500 for my jump! My next post will detail the actual experience.