Right at this moment, our doctors, nurses and frontline staff are working hard to provide urgent care and support during this unprecedented time. People like Emily.   

Here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, Emily is one of #OurHospiceHeroes. As a Palliative Care Social Worker, she’s providing critical support to patients and their loved ones during this difficult time – including helping patients with any anxieties or concerns they’re experiencing. We caught up with her to find out more…

Hi Emily, can you tell us about your role at the Hospice?

As a Palliative Care Social Worker, I support patients, their family members, loved ones and carers with any concerns or worries they may have – whether that’s emotionally or practically.

Living with a life-limiting illness can be emotionally tough, so I help people come to terms with what’s happening to them and try and support them to live as well as they possibly can. This could involve talking therapy (a therapy which gives people the chance to talk openly about their feelings and helps turn negative thoughts into positive ones), writing letters, making memory boxes for loved ones, or simply offering a listening ear.

Practical things can include helping with applications for housing adaptions, equipment or blue badges. It could also include legal matters, such as helping someone to make a will, appealing actions taken by debt companies and much more.

I also help organise ‘special days out’ for patients and their loved ones. This usually involves trying to source funding for holidays and short breaks; helping families to create special life-long memories. I love my job as I help support people to live their lives as fully as possible despite any limitations they may be facing.

How has your role changed during this difficult time?

Unfortunately, we’ve stopped making home visits during this time to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. This has been really challenging, especially when it comes to people who are using our service for the first time or for those patients who don’t have access to a computer/smartphone to fill out application forms. But it’s vital we do this, to help protect patients and our staff.

Despite these challenges though, we’re doing everything we can to continue to help people. We’re speaking to patients regularly on the phone or for some, catching up digitally via video calls or Whatsapp – whatever works best for them.

Coronavirus is causing a lot of anxiety for patients, so it’s important that they know that we’re still here for them no matter what. I think a lot of our patients have taken comfort in knowing they can pick up the phone and speak to us should they need to.

How is your role making a difference to people right now?

I think we’re giving a lot of reassurance to people, letting them know that despite having to physically distance, we are still here and offering social support.

Many of the people we care for will have been told to self-isolate, which is causing a lot of anxiety. So we’re here to offer them advice and find solutions, for example, signposting them to services which are offering shopping or medication deliveries. We’re also seeing some patients experience increased financial hardship, so we’re helping them by advocating for debt/loan holidays, welfare grants, emergency necessity packages and more.

Why is hospice care so important?

It helps people to live the best life they possibly can whilst managing their palliative condition. Not only do we support a patient’s physical symptoms, but we’re here to offer emotional, practical and spiritual support too. We can also be here to support that person’s whole network, whether that be family members, loved ones and/or carers.

Hospice care doesn’t discrimate and supports adults of all ages, faiths, ethnicities, sexual orientation and life-limiting conditions.

The staff and volunteers I work alongside really do go above and beyond and I’m proud to be part of such a wonderful team.

Who’s keeping you company when you’re at work?

My pet dog loves me working from home and enjoys being able to sit by my feet all day! It’s really helpful having virtual team meetings with colleagues – it gives us a chance to check with each other and make sure we’re all ok.

What’s your go-to quarantine boredom buster?

I never thought I would say this but I’m really enjoying the daily Joe Wicks workouts, especially as the weather is so nice at the moment and I can get out in the garden. And of course, the homemade slice of Kinder Bueno cheesecake that usually follows!

And finally…

Thank you to everyone who’s supporting the Hospice through this strange time. Whether you’ve made a donation, taken on a virtual challenge, volunteered your time or done something else, it’s been really heart-warming to see communities working together to support others, so thank you.

Our frontline staff – including Emily – are #OurHospiceHeroes. They’re doing all they can to provide around-the-clock care on our Inpatient Unit, as well offering critical support in people’s homes, on the phone, and via digital consultations.

And it’s not just our patients who we’re supporting. We’re also working in partnership with local hospitals, GPs, District Nurses, care homes and more to ensure more people get the care they deserve during this uncertain time.

But heartbreakingly, at a time when people desperately need our services, we’re losing out on crucial funds. We’ve had to postpone fundraising events, community activities and corporate partnerships, as well as temporarily close the doors to all 17 of our charity shops. But our care hasn’t stopped.

If you can help more people get the care and support they need, please make a donation or take on a virtual challenge here. Whatever you choose to do, you will be helping someone across Birmingham and Sandwell to receive the support they desperately need during these uncertain times.

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