Putting ‘Wellbeing’ at the heart of hospice care

When a person is diagnosed with a complex or incurable condition, it can be a frightening and stressful time, not only for them but the people around them too.

The medical and treatment plan is usually dealt with by consultants and doctors, but what about the other issues that are important to the patient?

Havens Hospices has always provided holistic care to patients and families. What this means is looking at all the things that are important to a person and supporting them to either deal or embrace these.

In 2019, a newly formed Wellbeing Team at Havens Hospices was formed headed up by former social services worker Chanelle Wilson who joined the charity in May,2019. The team can take referrals from anyone accessing the charity’s hospice care through Little Havens, The J’s or Fair Havens. There is one assessment that looks at the family’s entire needs from emotional, psychological, mental health and even financial assistance both pre and post bereavement.

Chanelle, 32, says, “We will take the time to listen to a family or patient and look at their entire non-medical needs and pull together an individualised Family Needs Assessment which may change over time. Not every family needs counselling. One month they may want help arranging benefits, the next it may be complementary therapy if their the main carer and need to relax.”

“The difference between a hospice and a hospital is that a hospital is there to provide medical support whereas actually a hospice is putting the person before their illness. We’re never going to forget that person and we have the support in place to make sure that that they’re not lost in their illness.”

Changes have been made under Chanelle’s leadership to keep up with not only the changing needs of the patients and families, but also the physical shift of the adult hospice, Fair Havens. There will be a larger Day Hospice and more therapy and treatment rooms which will allow the Wellbeing Team to expand its services and support more people.

A ‘Spirituality Review’ has also taken place and a new ‘Spiritual Care Lead’ has been appointed to help build relationships within the faith community, but also ensure that the charity’s services are accessible and welcoming to all faiths or those with no particular religious belief. There will be a space at the new hospice known as the Sanctuary which will be multifaith area for prayer, reflection and thought.

For the children’s services, many new initiatives have been introduced to try supporting families in a different way. Chanelle says, “We now adopt a ‘whole family’ approach, rather than focusing on the poorly person within the unit. We have Family Support Workers, a Social Worker and a Child and Family Therapeutic Worker working with children affecting by our hospice care. This could be a sibling, son, daughter or even grandchild of someone being cared for by any of our hospice services.

“At Little Havens, our families told us they wanted to use the building and gardens more together, so we introduced Saturday Socials and Cosy Sundays. Saturday Socials are an activity-filled day where non-resident families can come and take part. Cosy Sundays are much quieter just for a couple of families to chill out, have a roast dinner and maybe watch a film.”

Other developments in progress include an ‘Adult Bereavement Review,’ the charity’s first ever Children Bereavement Course and a bigger emphasis on Safeguarding to ensure that everyone across the whole charity is aware of their responsibility to look after the most vulnerable of people, whether that’s a patient, family member, employee, volunteer or supporter. Inclusive working will also be a key priority, with the charity’s first Equality and Diversity Audit taking place under Chanelle’s guidance.

A lot to have achieved in nine months! But Chanelle has created a wonderfully supportive team environment to ensure they’re giving the best support and advice. “The Wellbeing team have been so supportive and ready to embrace the changes ahead, they always put family’s needs first and have worked so hard to improve our outcome focused care”

Chanelle has also used her own background and experiences to drive this change that so many people desperately need. At 19, when she was six months pregnant and living at home, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I went from being a carefree teenager to suddenly caring for a new born baby and a terminally ill mum. I know how difficult things can become, and how lonely too.

“I remember one occasion when my mother had fallen out of bed and was lying on the floor and my daughter was crying upstairs and I didn’t know which one to go to first.”

After Chanelle’s mum died and her daughter was one, Chanelle went to university and has continued to study ever since, she is currently studying her Masters in Understanding domestic and sexual abuse at Goldsmiths university and worked in a variety of settings including children centres, woman’s refuges, crisis outreach and child protection services. All of these were focused around the whole family and working therapeutically to support families dealing with trauma and loss in one way or another.

“All of the work looked at holistic, family-based models, and when the job came up here, I felt I was ready to be involved with this service.

“If the help we offer had been available when I needed it, it may not have taken me so many years to feel I could do something to give something back. I had to take myself through work and education to get to this stage.

“Some people don’t have access to that, and I know I have been lucky to be able to use education and learning as a way of rebuilding myself. For some people that could be the crossroads for making something of their lives or using a more negative coping strategy.”

To find out more about the care of Havens Hospices and the Wellbeing Team, visit www.havenshospices.org.uk or call 01702 220 350

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Chanelle outside Fair Havens