A local charity says it has experienced an increase in demand for ‘home hospice’ care as patients try to avoid unwanted hospital admissions as the Coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Fair Havens Hospice at Home service provides palliative and supportive care within the homes of patients who have been diagnosed with a complex or incurable condition. As part of Carers Week (8th-14th June), the charity is highlighting the importance of its care within the home, which often allows carers a form of respite and supports them when their loved one wants to die at home.
Since April, referrals to the service have increased by 30%, meaning that the charity has added additional home visits. It is also working with Southend CCG and Castle Point and Rochford CCG to widen its geographical reach.
Paula Reid-Smart is the Hospice at Home Sister, coordinating a team of nurses and healthcare assistants. She says, “The Coronavirus has meant that many patients are choosing to stay at home with their family, because visiting is restricted in other healthcare settings.
“They’ve seen the news reports of people dying alone in hospital or care homes and that’s scary for them. We want to demonstrate that people can get good hospice care, it’s possible to receive really good quality care to die peacefully at home and we can support this.”
The Fair Havens Hospice at Home Team will also intervene in a crisis, arranging emergency visits for symptom control, arranging medication or to support them if they’ve had a fall.
“A big part of our role is to help avoid unwanted admissions to hospital. In most situations patients are able to receive all the care needed in last weeks and days of life at home. If a patient does need a short term admission for symptom control or if circumstances mean that the In Patient Unit may be a more suitable environment then we’ll work with Fair Havens to see if there’s a bed available.”
Alan Rimmel is 72 and lives in Southend with his wife. He has cancer in his bones and recently had a fall and broke his hip. Alan was admitted to Fair Havens Hospice and, once stable again, he was discharged back home to recover. “A plan was put in place so I could go back home and now the Fair Havens Hospice at Home Team visit me every day to help with personal care, making sure I’m comfortable in bed because I can’t move too well. Nothing is too much trouble. Even though they have to wear masks and aprons, they’re doing it with a smile on their faces.”
Paula continues, “Some of our patients have had symptoms of Coronavirus and that obviously makes them more unwell as they’re dealing with their diagnosed condition such as cancer or other life limiting illnesses.
“We have had a reduced demand for our usual day respite service because often the patient and carer are shielding themselves so we have therefore been able to increase our ‘Managed Care’ capacity. These patients are often very unwell, may be nearing the end of their life and usually have a lot of care needs so our visits to them every day are essential.
“We are also continuing with our night respite support which is essential to support people who are caring for their loved ones 24/7 and need a break so they can rest and recharge.
“Not only can it be emotionally demanding for our Hospice at Home team, but we’re asking them to work in a totally different way. We’ve changed shifts, the location which they cover and getting to grips with PPE. This is coupled with the understandable anxiety of risking their own health to care for those who potentially have the Coronavirus as the infection control measures in someone’s house are totally different to a hospital or hospice.”
“They have been so resilient and flexible. There’s a great team spirit and sickness levels are really low which shows a real strength and determination that our patients still need – and deserve – quality care at the end of their life.”
For the patients who are relatively well and managing their illness, the team is calling every week and offering help if required with shopping and picking up prescriptions. All of the care provided by Havens Hospices is completely free of charge – there is no cost to the patient or their family.
This free care can only continue thanks to donations made by kind supporters and an interim grant from the government via Hospice UK. With all public fundraising events postponed or cancelled, the charity is relying on gifts – whatever the amount – to keep caring.
To keep up to date with the latest developments at Havens Hospices, please click here.
For urgent care enquiries, please call 01702 220350.