Michael Durkin, 69, was supported by our Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home team to care for both his mother, Kathleen, and his brother, Tom, at the end of their lives, keeping them at home in Peterborough. In this blog post, Michael shares how the Hospice at Home team helped twice to fulfil his family’s final wishes, while supporting him too.
I was first put in touch with Sue Ryder by my doctor when I was caring for my mother in 2016. During her last week she was really poorly. The Hospice at Home team came in to help us.
Mother died at the age of 93, but I had been her carer since 2008. During her final days I realised how difficult it is to care for someone who is terminal and bedridden.
"The Hospice at Home team took an enormous load off me"
Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall’s Hospice at Home team took an enormous load off me. Caring had taken my life over, but it was not as stressful and difficult as it could have been without them.
In 2016, my brother Tom, who was living in Nottingham at the time, was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. The diagnosis came too late to cure the condition, but Tom was given radiation, hormone and steroid treatment to help.
Tom was a very vibrant person; he was very outgoing and very sociable and made friends very easily. But his treatment made him quite poorly, and I was concerned that in his flat he would be isolated. So we made the decision to move Tom from Nottingham down to Peterborough with me.
Unfortunately, on his 63rd birthday, Tom got out of bed and fell, sustaining a congenital fracture of the knee cap. Before that he was mobile and full of life. But after his fall his little bed became his entire world.
While in bed, Tom lost the power of his legs. He had become bedridden.
“I needed help so called the Hospice at Home team”
Thankfully they could help us and they came in that very afternoon.
The best thing of all is that, when I rang and said I needed help, the person I spoke to didn’t tell me what I needed – they were there, they came around and they organised things straight away. They got all the equipment we needed in place. It was immense. They sorted it all.
When I needed help, Sue Ryder gave it.
A "different calibre of nursing"
The care and help I and Tom got was beyond words; there is no comparison.
They helped wash him, showed me how to move him, took over what Tom needed. They gave us a lot of practical help. But it was not just practical care they gave; it was a quality of care that made a real difference.
When they gave Tom a bed-wash, it was a proper one. It really was a different calibre of nursing.
One Sue Ryder Nurse used to grill me each morning about the medication I had given Tom. I had to make sheets detailing times and amounts on, so we could make sure Tom was getting all he needed. She was determined it would be done properly.
And if she noticed something changing in Tom’s condition, she got in touch with the doctor herself to make sure Tom got the medical care he needed.
It was a quality of care I don’t think exists anywhere else. It was full care and it was exactly what we needed.
"Nursing at its best"
The team came in during the morning and in the afternoon. Once or twice, one of the team would pop in, if they were passing, to check in and make sure I was coping too.”
What they gave us really was nursing at its best. They are so hard working and really wonderful people too.
Not only did the team care for Tom – they supported me as well. The Hospice at Home gave me confidence to leave Tom and go and do some shopping. It is always a worry when you leave someone alone, but I have to go out and shop. Having the confidence to leave Tom to go out for an hour meant an awful lot to me.
Beyond going out to the shops, I was at home looking after Tom, helping him from his bed, helping with washing and dressing. It was a lot of physical and mental pressure, and the Hospice at Home team really helped with that.
"Tom's spirit was there right up until the end"
Tom used to fool around a lot. He knew he had a terminal condition, but he was full of life and very jovial, and he was mobile before he was bedridden. He would go and see friends; he was full of life. Even when he fell over and we knew his legs were going, no one believed this was a permanent thing. We thought it was an injury that just needed time to heal.
He was so determined. I would hear Tom mumbling in the middle of the night, and would find him doing his toe curls and lifting his feet. Boy, did he exercise! He would be up all the night on the phone or on the TV, looking on the internet or emailing his friends. He was very active and his spirit was there right up until the very last week.
Despite our efforts to get movement back into Tom’s legs, a physio shared the news that the cancer had spread to Tom’s spine.
The physio said: "You are not going to get your legs back – what we need to look at is what we can do for you with a wheelchair."
When the realisation settled in that he would be stuck in bed, stuck in wheelchair, Tom died a week later on Easter Sunday.
He had all the life in the world up until then. But he didn’t complain; he would make a joke about it more often than not.
"They are more than nurses, they became our friends"
After Tom passed away, the Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team surprised me by coming to see me. All four of them turned up on my doorstep, which was so kind of them. They are more than nurses – they became our friends.”
Their care helped me keep Tom at home and out of hospital. As an institution, Sue Ryder is beyond words for its value in the community and for the care it gives.
I am grateful not just because they helped me, but because they do this every day all over the place and there must be lots of people who feel the same gratitude. It is something that is immeasurable in terms of the value. I really can’t find a word to describe the impact. Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall’s Hospice at Home team mean everything to me.
The reality of hospice care is that it extends life – it’s not end of life.
Help us be there when it matters for families like Michael and Tom
Could you help us be there for families like Michael’s when it matters? Our Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home team is currently recruiting Senior Nursing Assistants.
If you would like to join our team and help make a difference to people in Peterborough with a life-limiting condition, get in touch for an informal chat and to meet the team.
Son and brother of patients
Michael was supported by our Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home team to care for both his mother, Kathleen, and his brother, Tom, at the end of their lives, keeping them at home.