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Yogesh (Yogi) Bhatt, from Grovehill, Hemel Hempstead, was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, before coming to the UK aged 19 and working in the UK at Tesco petrol station in Watford for most of his career. A devout Hindu, following the Hare Krishna movement, Yogi, 63, was diagnosed with progressive lung conditions – IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis) and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in 2013 after a lung biopsy – all conditions which scar the lungs so they don’t receive as much oxygen, leaving him feeling tired and becoming breathless very quickly.
Yogi was first referred to our community nursing team at the Hospice in April 2017 and we explored physiotherapy, complementary therapy and specialist support groups, but it was after his condition deteriorated in February this year that he was admitted to hospital for six days. Thereafter he was fast-tracked to our *Rapid Personalised Care Service - an 18-month pilot scheme to support patients in the last weeks of life, enabling them to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and stay at home in line with their wishes.
For 14 weeks, a team of carers from The Hospice of St Francis called in twice a day from 9-10am and 1-2pm to give him intensive care at home. They got him up, helped him wash or shower, prepared his food while his wife Bina works early shifts at Tesco and gave him lots of personal care. Yogi isn’t bed bound, but he’s weak and has limited mobility so he has a hospital bed in place and lots of specially adapted equipment at home.
Our community nursing team has also spoken to him about advance care planning, including arranging for him to have ‘Just in Case’ drugs at home were his condition to take a sudden turn for the worse, but every intervention is very small because he gets very anxious.
Under the rules of the pilot, the NHS funds 12 weeks of care but after 14 weeks, Yogi is now in a place where he no longer needs such intensive nursing and has recently heard that he is eligible for CHC (Continuing Health Care) funding to have a full NHS care package from now on whilst continuing to be supported by our community nursing team with weekly home visits.
Reflecting on the Hospice’s support, he says, “Louise and Sue from the Hospice’s community nursing team have been like the pillars who stood there very strongly supporting me with my care and medication.
“I had a reserved view of taking medicine and slowly they educated me why I need this medication, what it will do and why I have all the ‘Just in Case’ drugs in the house for the end of life. They have done and are still doing fantastic work – my daughter and wife have met them and all the carers who are extremely helpful. They can’t do enough for me. It’s like a bond between myself and the carers and Louise and Sue.
“Because of my breathlessness and my lack of body strength I am unable to get everything done but they have given me a better quality of life and made me less anxious. They listen to you. No-one has time these days, but they do. They’re never in a hurry - it’s always ‘what else can we do for you?’ and I am so grateful to all the staff, nurses and carers who work there.
“They are so professional and very calming and caring, ensuring I don’t feel isolated in any sense. What’s so important is that they keep me calm and collected so I don’t build up any anxiety and they listen to me. Their number one priority is to listen to people before expressing their views on a professional and emotional level - even on a spiritual level through a visit I had from their Chaplain Ray. They have helped me tremendously to be myself, helping in the best way they can and helping me keep my positive attitude too.
“The help the Hospice has given to me and my family has been extremely important, particularly lifting the burden of caring for me from my wife Bina’s shoulders. In the daytime, nurses have been coming in first thing and then at lunchtime helping me out six days a week whilst she’s at work. She then takes over my care in the evening and at night.
“When I got out of hospital I wasn’t sure what would happen and how would I be able to carry on the weaker I got, but they have made a tremendous difference to me.
“My faith is very important to me. I believe that everything is written in the Hindu scriptures and this keeps me going, knowing I have a limited period of time left. Death doesn’t frighten me. I believe that when you die it’s like changing clothes. My soul will have another life, depending on Lord Krishna, but it will migrate to another body, floating off without resistance - that’s reincarnation although I don’t know how I’m going to feel at the time that death happens and what condition I will be in. I do mantra meditation, look forward to my priest’s visits every Thursday when we read the Holy Book together and this keeps me on the positive side of this life, until the time comes for my soul to leave my body. I hope I will go away peacefully.”
Yogi’s daughter, Nimita, 29, visits regularly from her home in Northern Ireland where she is an editor and yoga teacher. Nimita took part in our recent Walk with Us fundraising event, a six-mile sponsored walk around Berkhamsted, and raised over £1,000 mainly from families and friends. She said, “The walk was something I could do to help Dad and to give something back to this wonderful local charity. Six months ago I didn’t really know what the Hospice was or what they did. I had no idea we could get help like this and for free and the help and support from day one has been incredible – not only for my dad but for my mum and I too.
“They’ve supported us for a long time and visit every day to take care of Dad and even sit with him and have chat over a cup of tea. For me, it’s great to come back home every month and see Dad and spend time with him. I know he has great strength and I understand how difficult it can be to remain positive in his position, but it’s important to see the good – that’s ultimately what gets all of us through each and every day.
“If I had to describe Dad in three words, I’d say he’s strong-minded, stubborn (in a good way of course!) and giving. He would do anything for anyone and not expect anything in return. I’m so proud of how he’s coping with his terminal illness and grateful that we have the Hospice of St Francis standing by us all every step of the way.”
*The pilot is being run in partnership with the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, Rennie Grove and Peace Hospice Care.
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