Say the word ‘hospice’ to people and scary images spring to mind of a bleak place where ill people are sent to die. However, I cannot stress enough that this isn’t the case and the next few paragraphs will explain my personal experience with The Hospice of St Francis and the positive impact it’s had on me and my family.
Why would you want to work there? Isn’t it depressing?
I first heard of the hospice when I came home from school at age 12 and my mum excitedly told me she’d landed her first full time job as an accountant since having me and my sisters. From then she worked there for 8 years and would constantly rave about her how beautiful the surroundings were, the tastiness of the lunches, and what a good laugh her and her co-workers had (even in her late 50s she participated in weekly football training put on by the hospice!) It was a far reach from the scary thoughts that fill the mind of pre-teen when someone first explains the purpose of a hospice.
Isn’t it the same as to a clinical hospital where you have to stay to receive care?
Sadly, in October 2016 my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Obviously this devastated my family and she had to give up working but the hospice were with us every step of the way.
The cancer had already spread to my mum’s spine which made it very painful for her to move let alone walk. Outreach nurses visited our home and would bring her an array of equipment to help day to day life become a little easier. They brought bathroom frames, foldable wheel chair and even a handy mobility walker. As her pain was managed the walker was her best friend, and I have fond memories of her zooming about with it at my graduation.
Regular visits by nurses and access to them meant we never seemed on our own. Another thing that really helped with her mobility was gardening sessions at the hospice as well as exercise classes she attended in the Spring Centre. When she’d get home from these, she’d continue to pump the iron and flex her muscles which always made us all giggle – our very own mini Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Over the Christmas period of 2017 mum rapidly deteriorated and sadly passed away on Christmas day. This meant she didn’t have the chance to spend her last few days at the hospice as planned. What surprised me most was the level of care they gave to us as a family in the aftermath of her death. I assumed after their condolences they would use their precious resources for the next ill patient that came their way. However, they offered us bereavement counselling, which me and my sister began, and my dad has opted to take part in the ‘cooking with Chris’ course.This is where the hospice’s chef, Chris Took, teaches recently bereaved family members to cook their favourite meals and gives them a chance to meet other people in similar situations (dad if you’re reading this is this is your chance to move on from your ‘special stir-fry’ that consist of noodles and gravy!)
Their ‘Light Up a Life’ and remembrance services is also a lovely way to pay tribute to mum, and something we find so meaningful.
Following in mum’s footsteps
Over a year on from my mum passing and in between jobs in television I decided to give back and start volunteering at the hospice which I’ve been doing now for three months. What still strikes me still is the jovial atmosphere of working there. The smiley faces of colleagues walking through the corridors, the chatty nature of other volunteers, and the laughter that continually ripples through the offices. I can see exactly why my mum loved working there so much.
The communications department, where I’ve been volunteering, have been so encouraging in giving me tasks to build upon my own skills such as the filming and editing of fundraising videos. I’m now looking to find work that marries my appreciation for wonderful charities but keeps the story-telling and creative aspect of TV – and communications departments do? this perfectly.
Overall, I can’t thank the hospice enough for its role in my family’s life. From providing meaningful work for my mum after raising me and my sisters, to caring for her when she was ill, to the support they’ve given my family and finally for teaching me valuable skills and experiences in the early stages of my career.
The Hospice of St Francis is far from a depressing place where people go to die, in reality it’s a place of fulfilment and help patients and their families to live their precious life well.