National Hospice Care Week, which ends on Sunday, is an annual week dedicated to raising the profile of hospice care across the UK.
HospiceCare North Northumberland is our local Palliative Care charity.
HospiceCare does not provide beds, but delivers care and support in the home with Hospice at Home services.
It is the main provider of palliative care in north Northumberland, supporting local people living with a life-limiting illness such as cancer, heart and lung disease, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease and heart failure, as well as providing support to their families and carers.
Hospice at Home is also very much about supporting those who wish to die at home; this might involve providing care at short notice to facilitate rapid discharge from hospital, as well as being there when a patient’s condition begins to deteriorate.
The service is available 365 days a year, day or night, planned or in a crisis situation.
With the appointment of an Admiral Nurse earlier this year, the very first one for north Northumberland, the charity is now able to provide end-of-life/specialist palliative care to people living with a dementia diagnosis.
Admiral Nurses are specialist dementia nurses who work with and support families and carers of people with advanced dementia.
Sue Gilbertson, HospiceCare clinical manager, said: “A common misconception is that a hospice all about dying, however the hospice’s philosophy is all about supporting people to live with their illness, while seeking the best quality of life possible.
“It’s all about putting the person and the family at the centre and asking them what will make a difference or improve their life at that moment.
“We often get to know people for several years depending on what point of their journey they access hospice support. We always tell people to use the hospice like a slow-moving train and hop on and off whichever platform they choose and at a time of their choosing.
“When someone is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, it affects not only the person with the illness but their husband or wife, partner and families. Lives are turned upside down as relationships change between loved ones and family members, who soon find themselves in the caring role.
“The realisation that life will never be the same as it was can be difficult to come to terms with, particularly as caring can be bewildering, confusing, isolating and demanding.
“HospiceCare is also able to provide care and support to carers as well as the person with the illness, as carers’ own needs can often be suppressed when all of their attention and effort is placed on the person they are caring for.
“As well as physical tiredness, carers’ stress levels may be high, affecting their own health and well-being.
“Fear, sadness, shock, anger, loss and anxiety are some of the normal emotions carers may experience, which is why HospiceCare places equal value and importance on helping carers’ general well-being.”
Last year, the nursing team delivered 9,000 hours of Hospice at Home and cared for 94 patients, of which 86 were new referrals, and delivered over 400 appointments for Bereavement Support.
All HospiceCare services are free of charge and you don’t need a GP referral. If you would like to speak to one of the HospiceCare Nurses, call 01665 606515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, HospiceCare needs to raise more than £660,000 to meet the demand for their services, and will receive just £40,000 from the NHS. The rest they have to find from donations, fund-raising and legacies.
Judy's story: Hospice support was wonderful
Nothing fully prepares you for the imminent death of someone you love.
Just two years ago, my very dear mother-in-law Pam was diagnosed with a terminal illness and only a short time to live. She was a very independent 91-year-old who lived on her own in Beadnell, and was totally in command of her faculties.
I knew we were going to need support from the hospice to be able to look after Pam at home in the way she very much wanted. Specifically, the family would need help at night times so that we would have the mental and physical stamina to cope with Pam’s day-time care and enjoy the precious time we had left.
Exhausted already, we could now find time to eat together and hopefully sleep while still being close to Pam, confident she was in capable hands. The situation was repeated that next evening.
In the early hours of the morning Pam died, peacefully, surrounded by her family and with Ruby, her terrier, exactly the way she had wanted.
None of this would have been possible without the wonderful support from the hospice.