Rennie Grove Hospice Care is planning ahead in order to give as many patients as possible a family Christmas at home together. The charity, which specialises in 24/7 responsive hospice at home care, is writing to supporters later this month to ask if they would be willing to make a donation towards the costs of its nursing care over Christmas.
Sue Varvel, Director of Nursing & Clinical Services, explains: “The last thing any family wants at Christmas is to be separated by illness. Our nurses will travel more than 13,500 miles and carry out around 600 home visits during the 12 days of the festive season to try and stop this happening. They put their own celebrations on hold because they know that precious memories are created at Christmas and for some families this might be their last chance to have that special time together.”
Last autumn, Rennie Grove’s Hospice at Home nurses cared for Alex Demain and his family. This is his sister, Sophie’s memory of that time:
“My brother Alex was diagnosed with cancer associated with Crohn’s Disease in February 2014 at the age of 28. The devastating news that Alex had only weeks or days left was forced upon my family on September 5 2015. I wouldn't want anyone to have to make the decisions that had to be made but the easiest decision of all was for Alex to stay at home surrounded by us and his friends. We knew we did not want visiting hours, machines and being at a hospice. Rennie Grove’s hospice at home nurses not only made this a possibility but they also became a support system for the whole family.
“The charity’s nurses were introduced to my family, returning daily with a friendly smile that helped me to stay positive for my brother. Their calm kindness and professionalism gave us confidence and stopped our worries about managing Alex's medical care and pain relief and enabled us to concentrate on making Alex's short time left with us special.
“As friends and family became aware that Alex only had a short time left the number of visitors went from a stream to a flood. Rennie Grove nurses gently worked round Alex's bedroom and friends as they joked, laughed or sat quietly with him.
“As the days became more difficult and staying positive was hard, the nurses helped me to stay strong with a gentle word, little hug or a simple smile that we were doing ok which helped me carrying on smiling for my brother. Alex did not need nor want to focus on the inevitable but instead reminisce, talk and enjoy all his friends and family.
“Besides the daily morning and evening visits, it only took a call in the middle of the night for a nurse to be at the door ready to help.
“Towards the end I had never felt so helpless, but the Rennie Grove nurses made us part of their team, teaching us and supporting us to make Alex as comfortable as possible. It sounds odd but, although on strong pain killers, Alex remained himself until his last breath - joking and teasing me.
“When Alex passed away the nurses immediately came round to help and advise and provided emotional support, treating Alex with dignity.
“In the church at the funeral whilst reading my speech I was particularly touched to see three of the nurses at Alex's funeral - with the same supporting smiles which gave me the strength to be brave.”
Sue adds: “I often hear our nurses described as ‘angels’ which is a title they would be too modest to own, but it’s fair to say they display true selflessness and kindness over Christmas. The memories they help create are priceless - but sadly there is a real cost we must cover to make this happen. Please help us if you can.”
Donate online at www.renniegrove.org/donate and quote ‘12 days’ in the ‘reason for your donation’ box.