What does your Christmas morning look like?
Do you tear open the gifts stacked up in your stocking, do you run downstairs to get a glimpse of the pile of glistening presents stacked underneath the twinkling Christmas tree, or do you stay snuggled in bed with a warm hot chocolate?
Whatever way you will be spending your Christmas morning, remember that not everyone will be spending their Christmas the same way. Those in your local community facing incurable illness may be spending their Christmas in the In-Patient Unit of your local hospice. Or, they may have a hospice nurse visiting them in their own home.
Our Your Hospice Lottery partners work tirelessly to make Christmas a magical experience for the patients and families in their care, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
Belinda, a Senior Health Care Assistant, knows that this time of year can be especially difficult for those in her care that are nearing the end of life. “It’s a sad time because families are suffering. But it is also a magical time for patients and relatives to be here because we make it as special as we can. We have carol singers coming in, we have a Christmas dinner for patients, we make it as special as we can.”
In the build up to Christmas day, our partners pull out all the stops to make this time of year as special as it can be. Abbie, a Hospice Nurse, details a memory that has stuck out for her.
“Leading up to Christmas a local theatre put on a performance for our patients at the hospice. We set it up in the living room and set it up on laptops by their bedsides. They could watch it with their families, have something to eat, have something to drink. They really did enjoy it and it was quite a laugh.”
It is these moments that can truly lift patients’ spirits, helping them focus on positives, rather than the challenges of their situations. Which also has a huge impact on their loved ones, helping them to relax and enjoy the precious time they have left together.
Belinda describes Christmas morning in the hospice, “It is very calm. We wrap their presents on Christmas Eve, and then we take them round to them in the morning. We sing Christmas songs with them, and they have a little Christmas breakfast if they want.”
The hospice staff agree that even though the circumstances are difficult, the hospice is a magical place to be at Christmas time. Beth, a Staff Nurse says, “For all the patients, to have their family and everyone together, and to all be able to sit down and have a homemade Christmas dinner together, is really lovely to see. It does make our job that little bit more special at Christmas.
“Hearing all the Christmas carols that people come in and sing. It’s beautiful to see the patients faces really light up at Christmas.”
It is hard to fully grasp the importance of a hospice until you or someone you love has experienced them. Their significance at Christmas is often heightened, with the emphasis on family around the festive season making death and bereavement even more difficult to process.
Hospice Nurse Abbie shares her thoughts on why she thinks hospices are so important, especially at Christmas time. She explains, “The hospice means a lot to people because for some people it is a home away from home. You can have your pets; you can have your family there whenever you need them. Some family members even see us as part of their family because we always come in with smiles on our faces, we’re always there for a hug or a laugh, and ultimately, we are looking after their loved ones.”
Senior Health Care Assistant Belinda agrees, “It takes a lot of pressure off the families. They can come in and spend quality time with someone that is in the hospice. It’s very calm and they can have a special time, and then they can go home and spend time with their other family, knowing that their loved one is well looked after.”
No time is a nice time to die, and the reality of hospice care at Christmas is that it is tough.
Patients don’t stop dying at Christmas. So, for those facing incurable illness and bereavement at this time of year is especially difficult to process.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Debbie explains, “At Christmas time, it is quite difficult time for everybody, especially families and patients. Patients don’t stop dying at Christmas, and that’s really quite hard for everyone who is caring for those patients.”
“As a team we do try to make things as jolly as we can, but unfortunately, we don’t always have the right outcome.”
The tireless effort that hospice staff put into making every moment matter, makes it 100% worth it for Louisa, a Lead Registered Nurse.
She explains, “It’s a very emotional job, we have to deal with the emotions of ourselves, the patients, and their families. But I take pride in the fact that I can help them and make a difference for them. That makes everything 100% worth it for me.
“The care we provide is so personal. People only die once; we only have one chance to get it right.”
Hospices are a vital lifeline for those facing incurable illness and bereavement. Many families simply cannot provide the level of care that is required for their loved ones at the end of life. The support they get from hospices allows them to make the most of the time they have left, rather than having the stress of providing their care.
But hospices all over the UK are on the brink of collapse. Hospice UK have reported that 96% of their members are budgeting for a deficit by the end of next year. The combined total is a staggering £186 million. The financial crisis is having a devastating impact on hospices, and if things don’t change soon, they will not be able to continue to help those who need them most.
Belinda thinks that it would be a huge loss for the community to no longer have the hospices services. She details, “I think it would be a really sad thing because a hospice is such an important place for someone to come that is terminally ill. Relatives are struggling to cope at home, and they want them to be in a safe environment. We have specialist palliative care doctors and nurses, who can give pain relief very quickly and they know they are going to be cared for.”
Staff Nurse Beth agrees, exclaiming, “hospices support so many people across the UK, and without them there would be a lot more people suffering at home and a lot more lonely people.”
You can make a difference to hospice care in your local community. Join the Your Hospice Lottery family and light up hope for your local hospice! Play Your Hospice Lottery for £1 per week to secure their future.
Don’t let this this be the last Christmas for your local hospice.