Alec & Sheila's story

“Although the aftermath of losing someone you love is never easy, when I look back I feel privileged that we had the good fortune to have used the Rennie Grove services and that Sheila was able to be cared for at home until the end in such a loving and dignified way."

Alec Penny looked after his wife Sheila for seven years after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Sheila had previously had cervical cancer 35 years ago which she had successfully received treatment for. When the District Nurses recommended that they use the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home service provided by Rennie Grove Hospice Care, Alec was keen to find out how the hospice at home system would work. Here Alec tells us about his experiences:

“Although I was aware of the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home charity shops, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when the nurses arrived to help care for Sheila. To my surprise and pleasure I found out quickly how valuable that care would be. The nurses who visited soon became like one of the family and each time they came they would talk to me giving me the benefit of their expertise before sitting and talking to Sheila.

“It was like a close relative visiting. They spoke to her in a laid back and informal way and were so in touch with Sheila and how she was feeling and that was really important to both of us. We formed very close bonds with the two nurses who usually visited.

“I then had a phone call from one of the Rennie Grove Healthcare Assistants. She, too, was a superstar and like the nurses had the gift of putting us at ease. She took charge so that I could go out from time to time, having a few hours away in complete confidence that Sheila was in safe hands. The knowledge that someone was there who knew the whole picture and was completely capable was so reassuring and allowed me a few really important hours to unwind. This was just as valuable to me as the help from the nurses.

“When the end was close Sheila was put on a syringe driver and it was obvious that time was now short. The nurses took the time to sit down with me and talk to me at length about what was going to happen. They wanted to be sure that I knew what to expect and what I should do.

“That conversation made such a difference. The fear about the moment that was coming was not completely dispelled, but having a much deeper understanding of what would happen made me feel at ease about what I would be facing. I knew that I could do things in my own time.

“Both my son and daughter noticed the difference when they visited and commented on how relaxed and comforted I seemed by having knowledge about what was ahead.

“Because Sheila couldn’t move or do anything for herself at the end, I had the help of a number of private carers who assisted me with her personal needs. The nurses saw them at work several times and commented on how knowledgeable and caring these carers were. That, too, was immensely reassuring.

“Although the aftermath of losing someone you love is never easy, when I look back I feel privileged that we had the good fortune to have used the Rennie Grove services and that Sheila was able to be cared for at home until the end in such a loving and dignified way.

“The organisation even helped make one of the most unpleasant jobs after Sheila died easier. Being able to donate her clothes and nick nacks to the local Iain Rennie Hospice at Home shop in the knowledge that it would help provide this wonderful service for other local families made a really tough task so much more bearable.

“Until the Iain Rennie nurses arrived on our doorstep, I really didn’t understand how invaluable the work they do is. But now I do, I am doing everything possible to spread the word and help in any way I can. I have spoken to all my neighbours and friends because the more people who know about and help support this important local service, the better.”

November 2014