This week is National Hospice Care Week, an annual week of activity to raise the profile of hospice care across the UK and highlight the extraordinary care hospices like ours provide.
To mark the occasion, we’re sharing words from some of our incredible staff, telling you more about their jobs and what hospice care means to them and the people they support.
Wendy Loader has worked at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Gloucestershire for eight years as an NHS-funded Occupational Therapist, but – thanks to funding from Morrisons – in November 2015 she took up a dedicated specialist Sue Ryder Occupational Therapist role.
Based in the hospice’s inpatient unit – the only one in Gloucestershire providing specialist inpatient hospice care – Wendy helps patients maintain their independence, supporting them to spend the time they have left in the way they choose. These are her words.
Hospice care is… about quality of life
"As an Occupational Therapist (OT), I look at how someone’s illness affects their everyday activities – how they get around their house, how they cook meals or look after their pets. For example, working in the inpatient unit, I may work with patients to see how they can get in and out of bed, or get themselves washed and dressed. If they need any additional help to maintain their independence, we work together to achieve this, perhaps by providing a specific piece of equipment or learning a new way of doing the task.
"Many people see the role of an OT as being focused on discharging patients home, but my role here is very different and focused on our patients’ quality of life. Even if someone has only days or weeks left to live, there’s much we can do to support them to remain independent and continue to play an active role in their care. It could be something as simple as helping them to carry on getting out of bed and dressed every morning, or spending time in a wheelchair in the beautiful hospice grounds.
"I support people to carry on doing what they want to be able to do until their final days. I help them maintain a sense of wellbeing and identity. It’s all about helping people get back some control over the things they can do."
Hospice care is… person centred
Being able to achieve this gives Wendy a huge amount of satisfaction and she says every day is different.
"One day I could be working with a patient in our inpatient unit practising techniques to help them get in and out of bed more easily; the next, I might visit a patient’s home to assess how we can make small changes to improve their quality of life when they’re back home again. A ramp at the door can enable someone to spend time in their garden or visit friends, while bed rails or special sheets can make it easier for them to get in and out of bed independently during the night to use the toilet.
"Another important area of my job is helping patients to manage fatigue. This is a very common and distressing side effect of many medical conditions and can affect all aspects of someone’s daily life.
"I talk with patients to consider what their priorities are, and then we work together to help plan and pace activities throughout the day so they can achieve the things that are important to them. Each approach is personalised to what the patient wants and needs so they can maintain some normality and enjoyment in their life."
Hospice care is… small things that make a big difference
When asked about what she enjoys most about her job, Wendy says it is the little moments that let her know she has made a big difference.
"I remember caring for a father with a young son who had been in our inpatient unit for some time. By making some minor adaptations to his home, and providing support and encouragement, he was able to attend his son’s third birthday party. Those changes may have been small, but we helped make a big difference to him, which will leave lasting memories for his family."
Wendy says that playing a part in helping patients carry on doing things that are valuable to them is also immensely rewarding.
"We were providing care for a lady in her early forties who had a young child at school. All she wanted was to be able to carry on being a mother for as long as possible. Working with her family, we made arrangements that meant she could carry on taking her child to school and keep cooking their evening meal.
"We organised a lift to the school each morning for the two of them so she could walk her child to the classroom and back again. We then made some changes in the kitchen so it was easier for her to cook. When this became too tiring, we focused on teaching her partner to cook the meals instead, and she pulled together all her recipes so that he could carry on cooking family favourites when she was no longer there.
"When this lady was admitted to the hospice, her partner brought their child back from school each day so they could talk and she could help with her child’s homework. When this became too much, we made sure there was space for her child to carry on doing her homework in the same room so mum could listen. It was really important to this patient that she was able to carry on with her role of being a mother, and we helped her do this for as long as possible."
Wendy really enjoys her specialist role.
"Every day I’m encouraged to do that little bit extra; to provide incredible care that helps patients fulfil their last wishes, carry on living until the end and create lasting memories for their loved ones. This is so important."