While many of us see Christmas as a time to be with friends and family, we will be continuing to do exactly what it does on every other day of the year: giving vital support both to those with life-limiting illnesses and their families. And this year, that support has never been more vital, with many feeling additionally isolated because of covid. Despite the pandemic, our Home Care Assistants are still out on the road every day, including public holidays, visiting patients, giving personal care as necessary and even ensuring that patients like Charlie have a hot festive dinner to enjoy on Christmas Day.
Eighty-nine-year old Charlie – a man who always has time for a chat – uplifts the spirits of everyone he meets. Having been diagnosed with throat cancer he’s been under our care since 2019. Particularly in the face of the pandemic he is vulnerable – not just because of his illness and age but because his niece, his closest relative, lives in Margate, quite a way from Charlie’s home near the hospice. Moreover, her ability to visit was very restricted because of covid. When our Home Care team stepped in, initially there was some concern about letting outsiders into Charlie’s home – would the team’s visits faze him? “Now, though, Charlie’s always delighted to see us, “ says Home Care Assistant, Dani. “And whenever I leave, he’s really keen to check when I’ll next be coming back.”
While Charlie is certainly grateful, he isn’t someone who wants to trouble other people with his own needs. That’s why the hospice at home health care assistants have worked to build up a relationship of trust both with him and his niece so that, together, they can make Charlie’s life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. For instance, after she’d been paying her weekly visits to Charlie for a while, Dani and the team discovered that he loves tucking into a meat pie – but with lockdown at its height there was no way he was going to be able to visit his local bakery for supplies. Dani and the Team spoke to Charlie’s niece so that she, in turn, could arrange for the bakery to drop off pies, as necessary. It was a similar story when Charlie desperately wanted the lemon and honey linctus that soothes his throat. The pharmacist delivered it to Dani who was able to drop it off on her next visit to Charlie. Says Dani, “It’s all about communication and working as a team – not just with the patients and their families, but with outside parties, too.”
Such is the relationship between patient and carer that Dani will be spending part of her own Christmas Day with Charlie, popping in with a hot dinner, a pressie and a party hat. “The holidays can be such a difficult and lonely time, which is why we want to make sure our patients realise how much they matter, 365 days of the year. And that support is there equally for their families, who this year are coping with the additional worry of covid.
I know how important Christmas is to me, which is why I understand how important it is to other people. I’ve found it quite a difficult time since my Grandad died, but when you think of what some families are going through, it puts everything into perspective and you just want to do all you can to make their Christmases special.
I’ll be liaising closely with Charlie’s niece to gauge the most convenient time to pop in, and of course the food will be specially prepared to meet Charlie’s needs – for some patients, for instance, the food might be pureed. I think we’ll have a quiet but fun time together and I’m sure it’ll be every bit as special for me as it is for him.”
Says Dani, “We’re a local charity and we wouldn’t be here, doing what we do, without the generous support of our local community. Our services are offered free of charge, but that means we’ve very dependent on financial donations to keep us going.”
And it is precisely those donations that enable us not only to employ exceptional team members like Dani, but to ensure there’s a hot meal for Charlie on Christmas Day. Says Charlie: “When Dani said she’d be popping in I was overjoyed. One minute I was facing the prospect of the day spent on my own – now I can look forward to a friendly face, some good chat and a proper Christmas dinner. It will feel like a day to celebrate! I would like to say a BIG Thank you!”