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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Families appreciate Ulverston hospice home care staff

A CRUCIAL aspect of end of life care for patients at St Mary’s Hospice is choice.

Staff work hard to accommodate the wishes of their patients and believe they should be free to choose where to receive treatment.

The Hospice at Home team is passionate about the work they do and it is appreciated by the patients and their families.

Angela Mason is the Hospice at Home coordinator, part of a team of seven people giving round the clock care to patients in their own homes.

A typical day begins at 7.30am, when she arrives at the hospice – but that is where the predictability ends.

She said: “You come into work in the morning and don't know what your day is going to be like.

“If we have a distressed patient that needs us, we can be straight in and straight out at 7.30am.”

The workload can be high – last year they visited more than 200 patients – and the days busy.

But the staff love what they do.

Angela Lafferty, senior health care assistant, said: “At the end of the day, if you can give them a good death and support the family, that is why we keep coming in day after day.

“You have got the reward of knowing you have supported that family.”

The team has a car for summer use and a 4x4 for use in the winter when weather conditions can prove too much for a small Ford KA.

But while the gas-guzzling 4x4 can be costly to keep on the road, the staff know they would be stuck without it.

They once had to be pushed out of a ditch by a patient’s family after the smaller car struggled to cope with some of the region’s rural roads.

Mrs Mason said: “We have got to have the 4x4 in the winter or, with the floods we have been driving through, we would never have got to the patients.”

And the cars truly have revolutionised the way members of the team go about providing care.

Mrs Lafferty said: “We used to have to get somebody to collect us because we couldn't get to the patients.”

But the ever increasing workload means the hospice cars rack up the miles at rapid pace.

Mrs Mason said: “We probably put around £120 of fuel a week in the 4x4 — we are filling it up twice a week.

“We are seeing more patients out in Millom and we have had a lot out in Coniston as well.”

And the staff believe there are more people out there who need the service but do not even know it exists. Mrs Lafferty said: “The service is growing – the need is there. People choose to be at home and we try and make that happen.”

Mrs Mason added: “Quite often we go into houses and they say we didn't even know you existed — we didn't know the service was there.”

Patients who receive care from the Hospice at Home team are frequently amazed by the high standard of personal care – and the families and carers benefit from it too.

Mrs Mason said half their work is caring for the patient and the other half is supporting their family.

She said: “What we do is a huge privilege for us. It is lovely to work with the families.

“We have to provide as much care and support as we possibly can to make sure that the patient's journey is as comfortable as we can.”

And although it can be emotional for them, having bonded with the family by spending time in their home, the thanks they receive afterwards makes it all worthwhile.

The team has a drawer full of thank you cards and letters sent by friends and relatives of the people they have cared for.

Mrs Mason said: “The cards we get thanking us, they choke us up every time we read them.”

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