Don’t let death kill life, urges St Elizabeth Hospice during Hospice Care Week 2017
PUBLISHED: 07:04 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:55 09 October 2017
Hospice staff members, Debbie Adams, April Richardson and Carole Rowell. Picture: ST ELIZABETH HOSPICE
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A Suffolk charity is using this year’s Hospice Care Week to launch a new campaign that aims to change the conversation around death.
St Elizabeth Hospice, which supports terminally-ill people in Ipswich and east Suffolk and their families, is adopting a fresh strap-line: ‘Don’t let death kill life’.
Mark Millar, chief executive, said: “This is about not letting the prospect of death bring a shadow across your life and making the most of your life.
“It’s about encouraging people to have the conversations with their loved ones about death earlier and what their wishes are so we can all work together to fulfil people’s wishes.”
Mr Millar said some of the myths around hospice care needed to be dispelled.
“We know a lot of people don’t engage with us because they are fearful of what the word hospice means,” he added.
“We are trying to emphasise that what we are about is life. Not a lot of people know that the average length of the relationship we have with a patient is five years. That’s five years of helping people maximise the life they have left.
“Death is a moment in time and we support people up to that moment. Families pass that moment in the best way they can.
“Yes some people will doubtless think this campaign is a bit too much in your face, but that’s because as a society we tend to avoid talking about death if we can help it, but that’s not healthy for us.”
Around 42% of those who die in Ipswich and east Suffolk will do so in hospital. St Elizabeth Hospice wants to expand its reach to help bring this figure down and ensure more people are able to spend their last moments in a hospice or their own homes, which will in turn reduce pressure on the NHS.
Mr Millar added: “This is about people facing the end of their life and sharing it with their loved ones in the way that is most helpful.”
St Elizabeth Hospice currently cares for around 2,000 patients and their families each year with an annual running cost of £10.5m.
The charity has an inpatient unit providing palliative care, but around 80% of the work it does is delivered in the community and within people’s homes, while 23% is bereavement support.
Ron Budd, from Ipswich, tells us about his experience of St Elizabeth Hospice
Mr Budd said: “I have always been frightened of that word ‘hospice’ as I thought it meant that you were going to die. Now I am experiencing their fabulous care, I know how wrong I was. It is not all about dying but it is about living.
“It took my consultant at St Elizabeth Hospice, a year in four persistent attempts at getting me to come in. I kept refusing as I was too scared. If someone so much as mentioned the word, I didn’t want to know.
“I didn’t want to engage with it or to understand it – I simply wanted to get off the subject and as quickly as possible. How wrong was I?
“I don’t think I’m alone in having felt this way but I know that I wasn’t truly alive before I took those first steps to come in. They gave me back my life.
“Going in that day, I was so nervous, fearful as I didn’t know what to expect. In reality though, it didn’t take long for me to feel calm. From then on, I developed a different attitude towards the hospice and began my journey.
“I have been in and out of the inpatient unit three more times since that first visit, each for two or three weeks at a time and currently I feel the best I have felt for years.
“Even though the cancer is in all of my bones now, I have had another 15 years of life since that diagnosis and the hospice is giving me a quality of life I couldn’t have imagined.
“Whether I receive care in the community or in the physical hospice, my doctor knows how to handle me. I am honest with him and he listens to me – really well. He always has an answer and will always try different combinations of medications in order to do what’s best for me.
“There is a constant tweaking going on to respond to changes. Nowadays, I am up and awake all day, until quite late. He is truly patient-centred, compassionate and not pushy – we do things at my speed.”
Today is the start of Hospice Care Week – this newspaper will be marking the initiative by shining a light on St Elizabeth Hospice in a series of stories.