When Jim’s wife, Jennifer, passed away, he felt overwhelmed. Not only was he dealing with heartbreak and grief but he had a lot of practical matters – such as arranging the funeral – to sort out too. That’s where Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice’s ‘Family and Carer Support Team’ helped out. The team provided Jim with practical and emotional support, giving him less to worry about during this distressing time. Read his story below…   

My wife and I were very close. We were also very private people – we didn’t have any children and we didn’t socialise much – but we loved spending time with each other. We liked our peaceful home life, watching sports on TV and so on.

So when Jennifer, my wife, was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer which spread to her brain, I was heartbroken. She had always been there by my side and I couldn’t imagine life without her. 

That’s when we were put in touch with Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice.  Jennifer stayed at the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit and the care there was second to none. The nurses and doctors were so attentive to her needs, helping to alleviate her pain and making sure she was comfortable.  

When she died recently, it was a complete shock to the system. I thought it was the end of the world. Not only did I have to deal with my grief, but I also felt overwhelmed with all the practical matters that I had to take care of. I remember thinking “I’ve got so much to deal with, such as the funeral and our finances”. I just didn’t know what to do.

So when a nurse at the Hospice told me about their ‘Family and Carer Support Team’ who can help with those kind of matters, I felt really relieved. They arranged for Zoe, their Volunteer Support Worker Coordinator, to come and see me and together we discussed what support I needed.

Zoe put me in touch with Miriam, a Volunteer Support Worker at the Hospice, and she has been a lifesaver. Miriam has given me a lot of support over the last few months. One of the things that was troubling me most was getting in control of my finances and Miriam has helped me every step of the way.

As I am housebound, there were lots of complications in closing my wife’s bank account and opening a new one in just my name. With help from Zoe and Miriam, we arranged for staff from the bank to come to my house to help finalise things. I didn’t know the bank could come to you and it was such a load off my mind when it got sorted.

Similarly, I sometimes find it really difficult to talk to people on the phone. So I struggled to apply for benefits such as the Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit. Thankfully, Miriam helped me with things like this too. She would ring them on my behalf and if I did have to speak to someone, she would stay with me to offer support if I needed it.

Miriam has also referred me to a Befriending Service.  As I live on my own, it’s nice to have some company from time to time. I’m really grateful to have someone visiting once a week to have a coffee and a chat.

Along with Miriam, I also saw Maxine from the Hospice. Maxine is a Student Social Worker and she really was on the ball with providing me with practical support. I’m not very confident and sometimes I can get a little ‘muddled’ about things. So I was always grateful to have Maxine here as a mediator when someone came to see me for an appointment. It put me at ease knowing she had my best interests at heart and it was good to have someone who can clarify things for you. I felt much more relaxed knowing that I had got that support and without hers, Miriam’s or Zoe’s help, I really do think I would be struggling.

I can’t put into words how much I appreciate the support I’ve received from the Hospice’s Family and Carer Support Team. That’s why I call them my ‘Hospice Heroes’. I honestly think that without their help, I wouldn’t have made it. When you’re going through an emotionally difficult time, it’s nice to have people who can help with the practical matters – it’s just great having less to worry about. 

Many thanks to Jim for sharing his story with us. Our Family and Carer Support Team offer a wide range of support services depending on the needs of patients and their loved ones.

If you would like to find out more about this team, you can do so by taking a read here.