Having conversations around death, dying and bereavement can often be difficult for many patients and their families.
It often feels easier to put them off rather than confront them. But, by facing our fears and talking about palliative and end of life care, people can have deeper conversations and ensure they’re in a good place to die – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and with the right care and support in place.
For one of our patients, Pat, and her family, having those types of conversations helped them come to terms with the situation, enabling them to make necessary plans for the very best end of life care for Pat.
This Dying Matters Awareness Week, we spoke to Pat’s family after she received care from staff at John Taylor Hospice following a cancer diagnosis in January this year.
Since the day of her diagnosis, Pat, from Birmingham, was sure she wanted to die in a hospice. Even though she didn’t know much about them and had never visited one, Pat’s family respected her decision.
At John Taylor Hospice, Pat met Pip Olliver, Community Team Lead, who built a great relationship with Pat and helped her come to terms with her diagnosis, and what came next.
Pat’s family and friends praised the hospice for its specialised care. They said: “Pip was the Community Nurse who came out to see Pat a lot. From the get go, what we were all struck by was her knowledge, experience and the ability to deal with difficult situations in a caring and safe way.
“Pip and Pat were able to have sincere conversations about end of life care in a respectful and sensitive way. It normalised what was happening.
“As time went on, Pat became more and more poorly, there seemed to be more questions arising both from Pat and from our family.
“Pat trusted Pip. For an independent, older woman, it was important that Pat trusted the people who were looking after her. That trust enabled Pip to have the kind of conversations they needed to have, but with an extra sense of comfort.
“It also enabled Pat to receive advice – advice she may not have received from us – she needed that professional voice. They had very important decisions to make around Pat’s care, and needed to have those frank discussions around dying.
“This then helped Pat and I have very full conversations about her funeral, because they had already normalised what was happening in a way. The fact Pat came to terms with it helped all of the family.”
After growing that trust with Pip and her team, Pat felt more comfortable about attending sessions at the Living Well Centre at our Erdington hospice, as she hadn’t left her house since her diagnosis and was extremely anxious about visiting.
However, as soon as she got there, she found a welcoming and inviting atmosphere, and was even able to speak to Lynn, our Spiritual Advisor, who helped her answer some of those ‘big’ questions we all have.
As Pat’s health began to rapidly decline she was admitted to the hospice’s Inpatient Unit in mid-March.
Pat’s family said no request was too small for the hospice team during her stay, and they were able to spend their last moments with her, all together, at peace.
“We just can’t praise enough the professionalism of the team. They were sensitive, thoughtful and kind, but also clinical and professional.
“As a family, we were so looked after, as was Pat. It was even the smallest things that made a difference – china tea cups and a slice of toast, even a comfy chair to fall asleep in.
“Whenever we pressed the button, someone was there straight away. They gave us the privacy to be alone but also the reassurance that someone would be there if we needed it.
“When it became clear that Pat was in her last moments, we were able to spend that time with her as a family at peace. It was a real privilege.
“One of the greatest gifts Pat has given me is to not be afraid of death. She showed me that.”
Thank you to Pat’s family for sharing their story with us. To find out more please visit: www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/dying-matters-2022/ .
Or for more information about this year’s Dying Matters Awareness campaign please visit www.hospiceuk.org/our-campaigns/dying-matters #DMAW22