Before I’d been to a hospice, I didn’t know what it was. It was like a hospital, but people didn’t get better and go home.
I imagined that a hospice was clinical, cold and slightly terrifying, similar to the cat hospital in Doctor Who, where everything is bright white, sterilised and unnerving (minus the cat doctors).
My first visit to Thorpe Hall was to see if Dad liked the hospice and wanted to spend his final weeks there. We strolled through the stately home building (the original hospice), explored the lounges and gazed out onto the blooming flower beds and rich trees in the gardens. Dad was sold. But I didn’t get it… initially.
A week or two later, Dad was admitted to the hospice for a medication tweak. Hospices provide end of life care as well as respite care and Sue Ryder also provides neurological care.
What happened in those three weeks will stay with me forever. The final weeks of my Dad’s life were filled with SO much joy and laughter.
It’s an odd experience to embrace the fullness of each day when you know there aren’t many left with someone you love. You want to hide and cry, but then you’re surrounded by remarkable people providing the medical care and support they need, to let the rest of us continue to behave as we would as a family at home.
The nurses, doctors and volunteers become part of the family. They make jokes, then give injections, they tell stories, offer hot chocolates and then clean, change and tend to your loved one.
You have to be a remarkable person to work in a hospice. It’s a rare breed of human to have so much compassion, spirit and knowledge that being immersed in it creates some kind of magic.
They provide the light in the dark that you didn’t know how to find. They do it everyday. They know how it works and they know what to say.
For over 60 years Sue Ryder has been there when it matters most. But right now, the coronavirus crisis is having a devastating impact on their funding with a £4 million gap per month.
Without funding each Sue Ryder hospice, including Thorpe Hall, is at risk of the unthinkable.
If my Dad hadn’t gone to Thorpe Hall my life and that of my whole family would be extraordinarily different. We’re entwined with Sue Ryder for life.
A hospice becomes a home in a way that a hospital never can. It offers a space outside of the busy world to take time to care and process the end of a life in a peaceful environment. It is essential aspect of our society.
Alongside every doctor and nurse in the NHS, our care workers (at home or in hospices) are the everyday heroes, whose stories we don’t often tell.
I am always intrigued to discover a person’s first impressions of a hospice, as I think it’s hard to define and understand if you haven’t been.
I asked my friends and followers on Twitter and Instagram…
How would you describe a hospice in one word?
These were their responses:
Care, Love, Hope, Goodbye, Community, Comfort, Clinical, Dignity, Peaceful, Safe, End, Kindness, Homely, Positive, Compassion, Amazing, Incredible, Dependable, Inspiring, Essential, Haven, Calm
It requires a special balance of people, place, skill and equipment that creates the heart of a hospice and does something extraordinary – it provides you with love, hope and safety in the bleakest of times.
If you can donate to Sue Ryder’s urgent plea for funding please do here: https://www.sueryder.org/donate
You can also donate to Hospice UK here: https://www.hospiceuk.org
Read more about my involvement with Sue Ryder here.