“I was humbled walking into their home”
For many people at the end of their life, health conditions can be unpredictable and pain can fluctuate to the point where relatives and carers need frequent guidance from medical health professionals so having instant access to our clinical experts is hugely reassuring for all our Hospice users. As well as having the on-site Inpatient Unit here at Kenton Grange, we also support patients at their homes in the community.
The cost of care for six out of ten patients comes from our generous supporters so it’s the role of our Fundraising team to engage with donors and part of that is understanding how their money is spent. In order to gain first-hand insight, two of our staff went out with Tonia, our Clinical Nurse Specialist to see what goes into a home visit and the lengths to which our nurses go to support patients during their end of life care.
John Clifford, Corporate Partnerships Manager for St Luke’s Hospice, explains how he was feeling before visiting: “I was definitely nervous. I understood the responsibility I had as non-clinical staff being trusted in a clinical setting, this added to the already emotional atmosphere I had walked into. Part of my objectives were to understand how St Luke’s operates so I knew already that this was an opportunity to see our work in action.”
Jo Pearce, Head of Major Gifts, expressed how grateful she was to be allowed into such a sensitive space with a family who relied on St Luke’s during their time of need: “I was humbled walking into their home, many of their family couldn’t speak English so Tonia helped me learn a greeting in their native language to break the ice. I saw how she really went that extra mile to accommodate the patient’s family.”
What was clear early on in the visits was that complex needs of the patient were quickly addressed by Tonia. The patient Jo met was very distressed and the nurse quickly diagnosed them with terminal agitation, a type of delirium where the patient becomes restless and hostile. She controlled the patient’s pain levels through medication and reassured the family about what to expect from these symptoms and the next stages before death.
Jo said, “Tonia calmly told the family they were able to increase the patient’s pain relief dose significantly. The family breathed a sigh of relief at Tonia’s confidence. She continued to ask simple, but earnest questions to try and resolve problems, for example she’d say: ‘What would make the patient more comfortable right now?’ I was really moved when the son explained other stressors in his life and she calmly responded, ‘How are you?’ allowing the gentleman to break down into tears. Compassion is what was needed and that is what Tonia showed.”
With added pressure on the NHS, infrequent contact time with medical professionals can make it difficult to help patients with quickly-changing conditions, so it’s clear why patients and their families value their moments with our Community Team. John explains, “This experience has really put into perspective what I’m fundraising for. Real people benefit from our service, and if their wish is to stay at home during their final days, then it’s vital that we keep this free service funded.” We cannot thank our donors enough for keeping these vital services available.