The smallest things make the biggest difference

It’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference,” says Karen Reilly, one of Tynedale Hospice at Home’s nurses, reflecting on the care we provide.

It was this unique support that struck a chord with Aline Watson’s family when she received care from Tynedale Hospice at Home last year.  Aline from Hexham was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2014 and received care from Karen, and others from the Hospice, in the final hours before she died in May 2016, aged 72.

“Mum’s diagnosis was a shock for all the family,” Mari Stewart, Aline’s eldest daughter explains.  “She had always been such a vibrant woman, so full of energy and lived her life at the heart of the community.  She was a teacher and actively involved in amateur dramatics.  We hadn’t expected some routine blood tests when she was feeling ‘not quite right’ to reveal such devastating news.

“She was adamant that she wanted to die in Hexham, and at home.  When it was clear that her treatment was palliative, we wanted to do everything we could to make her as comfortable as possible but remain true to her wishes.  The Hospice was a lifeline at this terrible time and we couldn’t have made it through without the support of their nurses. Their professionalism and the care she and our family received made what was an awful time more bearable.

Karen talks about the service that she and other Hospice nurses offer as like a “warm coat of support” at what is an extremely difficult time for families. It’s a service that goes beyond the medical care of the patients, it is care that supports the whole family.

“It wasn’t just about the medical care,” continues Mari. “We were struck by the simple things the nurses offered – from making a cup of tea when we were exhausted and didn’t want to leave Mum’s side – to giving us the space and time to be alone with her. Knowing they were there in the background to provide support when we needed it was such a relief.

“Thanks to the Hospice, my sister, Fiona and I were able to sit with her knowing she was as comfortable as possible and my dad was able to be with his wife of 44 years, as she died.  It was just as Mum had wanted.”

Each year Tynedale Hospice at Home provides end of life care to more than 120 people.  Patients are referred to us by their GP’s, Macmillan or their Community Healthcare team.  The majority of people we care for through our Hospice at Home service are cancer patients.  However, we are also here to support those who have other life threatening conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

Karen Reilly is one of 19 nurses and Hospice Support Workers who provide this vital service.   She helped nurse Aline in her final hours.

Karen said: “We’re here to provide comfort and a listening ear for each patients’ family members and friends.  Our presence helps to give each family confidence and reassurance that their loved one is comfortable and well cared for.   I see part of my job as also being able to give the family a break, to give them time and space to pick their children up from school, go shopping, meet friends, have a coffee. Have a rest.  The simple things.

“In my role as a nurse, making a patient as pain-free as possible is a given.  But Hospice care is so much more than that.  It’s amazing the difference you can make with something simple  – a soothing touch of your hand on their arm, a hand massage, some crushed ice on their lips when their mouth is so dry they can’t speak.  These are small gestures, but the positive difference they can make can have such an impact,” continued Karen.

“This unique care is at heart of our approach and one of the many reasons why I love doing what I do.”