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As a family, we felt that we had an anchor

Blog post   •   Sep 27, 2016 16:27 BST

Stanley Bond was first referred to ellenor in September 2012 aged 89. He had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and told that it was unlikely to respond to any treatment. He lived with his wife, Muriel, who had at that time just been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia.

Stanley had a stroke in 2009 and had made a reasonably good recovery but did have some left sided weakness. He also had a diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation, Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma and Skin Cancer. But, despite all this, he still led an active life in the community and was an active member of the congregation at Christ Church.

Stanley was born in Gravesend, the eldest of four children. He was a D-Day veteran and extremely proud of receiving the Legion D’honneur and title of Chevalier in October 2015. He married Muriel, who was from Staffordshire, in 1946. They had three children Susan, who died in 2015, Richard and Christine. Apart from a few years in Herne Bay in the 1950s, the couple lived in Northfleet and Gravesend all their married life.

Stanley’s first job was with Gravesend Borough Council in the Engineers Surveyors Dept in 1937 as a Junior Cost Clerk. He spent most of his life working in accounts and early computer operations, at companies including Formula Steering Wheels and SM Paper Company.

Stanley took early retirement in 1984 when he and Muriel decided to devote their time to their community. Stanley was involved with Gravesham Arts Council, of which he was a founder, Gravesham Citizen Advice Bureau, Gravesend Operatic Society and the Royal Engineers Association. He was also involved in Gravesham Town Twinning Association from 1981 and enjoyed trips to Cambrai in France, Neumunster in Germany and Chesterfield in Virginia, USA. He received the Gravesham Civic Award in 2004.

Stanley and Muriel remained active into their late 80s and enjoyed life including travelling, music, theatre and a good glass of wine!

When Stanley was first referred to the hospice, he had an assessment visit but it wasn’t until a couple of months later, when life with Muriel became increasingly difficult, that the GP asked for more support for him. He began to receive monthly visits at home from an ellenor nurse in

December 2012 and these continued for several months.

“During this time, I spent increasing amounts of time going backwards and forwards from Lincolnshire to stay with my parents, as we seemed to go from crisis to crisis as their need for support increased,” says Christine Bond, one of the couple’s daughters. “They had always been the ones who looked after others and so accepting any support was quite difficult for them. During those months I recall going with my Dad to coffee mornings at ellenor and he always met people that he knew.”

Eventually, Christine resigned from her job in Lincolnshire in June 2013 and moved in to care for her parents.

“I attended an extremely useful course at ellenor for carers and found out about the full range of services offered including Day Therapy, which I felt Dad would really benefit from,” she adds.

Stanley began attending Day Therapy at ellenor Gravesend once a week in July 2013.

“He was really positive about it, especially the fact he was offered a drink before lunch,” says Christine. “He always enjoyed a glass of red wine and even the week before he died he was captured on film by BBC South East with a glass in his hand surrounded by members of his ‘Thursday group’.”

Christine says that Stanley found Day Therapy very beneficial.

“He had reflexology which he loved and was able to ask staff about any worries he had,” she explains. “He felt confident in being able to see a doctor and not feel rushed for time. He loved the lunches, enjoyed relaxing to the live music, met new friends and shared the sadness as people passed away.”

She continues: “As a family, we felt that we had an anchor and my brother and I both took advantage of the support and when we had questions or worries, we were able to ring at any time. I also had several sessions of counselling at ellenor, which was so helpful to me in making decisions about the future. My Dad also saw a counsellor there, which I know helped him.”

In January 2014, Muriel went into a care home, which Christine says was a hugely difficult decision for the family, and sadly died after two bad falls at the home within 24 hours in April 2014.

In March 2014 Stanley began to have home visits from a volunteer at the hospice (Sue Grey) who spent an hour or so with him regularly.

“These visits meant a lot to Stanley. He was quite a reserved man but kept a tremendous interest in people and was able to talk with

Sue about a host of things,” says Christine. “These visits continued for almost two years and my Dad appreciated them greatly.”

At this time, Stanley’s daughter, Sue, was experiencing some health issues of her own, which she hadn’t shared in full with her Father.

“In January 2015 my sister was admitted to ellenor,” explains Christine. “It was a Thursday and Stanley was in Day Therapy. It was a huge shock to Dad, as he had not known that Sue was so ill. She had not wanted him or Muriel to know the extent of her illness over the previous couple of years and it was a very difficult family time. Staff at ellenor were, once again, very supportive and, sadly, Sue passed away three days later.”

During 2015, Stanley’s son, Richard, moved in with Stanley. Christine says he also found the staff at ellenor very helpful with any queries or concerns. Like Christine, he attended some session for carers and, she says he felt well supported by staff.

Stanley had always been clear that he wanted to spend his last days at the hospice.

“Initially, he went in for some respite and assessment, so it was a surprise when Richard was told that Dad would be unlikely to return home but we fully understood that although Stanley’s spirit was still strong his body had had enough,” says Christine.

Stanley died at ellenor Gravesend on the 19 January 2016.

“Stanley was visited by many friends and family during his last days at ellenor and we were aware of many acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from the staff who cared for him,” says Christine. “I had just had a hip replacement, so it was good knowing that we could come and go as we pleased.”

Richard and Christine were invited back to ellenor for a ‘bereavement tea’ soon after their Father’s death.

“We found the bereavement tea a surprise, to be honest, and felt that it was such a lovely idea and so helpful for many people in beginning their grieving,” says Christine. “So different from a death in hospital.”

Stanley’s funeral was a great celebration of his life – which was attended by more than 100 people at the crematorium and the church. His ashes were placed with Muriel in the churchyard at Christ Church on 13 April 2016 - which would have been their 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Christine says that her family was aware of ellenor as a hospice, as other family and friends had been cared for there.

“I think, initially though, we saw it as just that a place to die in as peaceful a way as possible,” she says. “However we found that there was so much more to ellenor and that it is a great place of support for people with life limiting illnesses. Staff and volunteers made a real difference to not only Stanley but to the wider family.”

She continues: “It was of huge benefit to us as Stanley faced each new event in his life and although the bowel cancer was his biggest ‘worry’, he was also helped in coping with his increasingly poor eyesight, his treatments for skin cancer, his mobility and other issues. Staff were proactive in monitoring his overall health, liaising with his excellent GP Dr Sharma and referring him to other professionals including OTs and district nurses. I also recall that he spoke with the financial/legal adviser at ellenor on a couple of occasions who he already knew from work at the CAB.”

Stanley is remembered with great fondness by everyone who came across him at ellenor – particularly staff and volunteers on Day Therapy.

Christine concludes: “On receiving his Legion D’honneur and the title of Chevalier, he began saying he now required two kisses, one on each cheek in the manner of the French.”

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