Over Christmas we’ll have Sue Ryder Nurses, care and support teams working around the clock to be there when it matters for local families needing our expert and compassionate care. Whether providing palliative care in people’s own homes, or in one of our seven specialist palliative inpatient care units, they’ll be doing all they can to make sure families are looked after and can continue to make treasured memories at this time of year.
In this blog, we meet Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice inpatient unit ward manager, Sue Phillips, and Sue Ryder Nurse, Mari Pittman, as they talk about what it’s like to be in a Sue Ryder hospice at Christmas.
Patients wake to a small stocking on their bed
Mari says, “It is lovely to work here at Christmas. Staff want to be here. It’s very peaceful and there’s a lovely atmosphere. On Christmas morning patients will wake to a small Christmas stocking on their bed. We will them get washed and dressed, if that is what they wish, and they are served a Christmas breakfast.”
“Some of our patients might be going home or out for dinner with loved ones so we’ll help them get ready; putting on special clothes, makeup, or their favourite aftershave or perfume.”
“Our catering team will go around taking the lunch order for patients and families in the unit dressed as Christmas elves and sometimes Mrs Claus (also known as Sue!) will go around serving aperitifs from our drinks trolley.”
It can be a bitter sweet time
Sue adds, “We don’t ignore Christmas here at the hospice, but we know for many families in our care it can be a bitter sweet time. We adjust celebrations according to each individual’s needs. Often people don’t want to miss out. So, if patients want we will put up fairy lights in their room, or a Christmas tree. We have the beautiful Christmas tree at the top of our drive and in the chapel too.”
“In some cases we help facilitate an early Christmas. I can remember one year we brought Christmas forward for a family in our care and it was a beautiful family occasion.”
Christmas is all about family
“Christmas is all about family and friends, so often there will be lots of visitors on Christmas day. Children will come in and we will make a big fuss of them too, asking them about the presents Father Christmas bought them.”
“Where we can and where it is appropriate we will do all we can to make Christmas a special occasion. Relatives can have their Christmas meal here. We lay the tables as you would at home. There are drinks. And if it is easy for patients to get home for Christmas then we make that happen where we can too.”
Christmas visits from HRH The Prince of Wales
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice’s Royal Patron and every other year he visits the hospice at Christmas to spend time with patients, their families, volunteers and staff. Last year on his visit His Royal Highness planted a Yellow Norwegian Maple in the hospice grounds to commemorate his 70th birthday year.
Sue shares, “When Prince Charles comes to visit us it is a very special time for everyone. He is so warm and patients and families tell us they treasure the photos they have meeting him. His Royal Highness makes time for all our patients and he has a lovely chat with them. His visit makes very special memories.”
Christmas Carols echo down the corridors
Christmas is made extra special thanks to the support of local organisations too – corporate groups come in to help decorate the hospice, and local groups come in to give Christmas performances.
Mari adds, “During Christmas we are lucky to have brass bands, choirs and string quartets come in and perform for patients, families, volunteers and staff. The acoustics of this historic building are incredible so no matter where you are on the unit with the doors open you can hear the Christmas carols echoing down the corridors.”
We are here for them
Very often as staff are caring for families on Christmas day, they think of their own families at home. Mari adds, “Caring for families who have a loved one who is dying can be very hard at this time of year. I remind myself we are lucky that we are able to go home to our families and enjoy time with them. Some people can’t, and this really puts everything into perspective. It makes me want to enjoy every minute with my family even more.”
“I also remind myself that we are here for them, our patients and their families. It is what we are here for. Our ethos is to be there when it matters, and I would not want it any other way.”
Find out more about the specialist palliative and home care, as well as emotional support, provided by Sue Ryder Nurses at Leckhampton Court Hospice, including how you can donate or fundraise to help them be there when it matters all year round.