Michele’s story

"I can tell you for sure that virtually every single patient and family member has said the same phrase to me at some point in their time with St Clare: 'I feel so safe'."
Social Worker, Michele Tavarone

I am a social worker at St Clare Hospice, working within the Patient and Family Support team. My support as a social worker involves assisting people to navigate their way through what can be an unknown and scary time in their lives. I support patients, family members and caregivers to manage a whole host of things, including emotional and practical concerns.”

“My starting point as a social worker is always to find out what really matters to the person I am there to support, and to explore what needs to happen for us to work together to achieve their own goals. I encourage people to take back control, empowering them to live their lives in the best possible way.”

“Together, we find a space where they can explore things that are on their mind and concerns they may have, to bring them to the fore and think about how to reconcile them. These might be emotions that they are finding it difficult to deal with or practical concerns, from money to housing issues, funeral arrangements to re-homing pets, and making memory boxes for their loved ones.”

“For many people who are faced with a diagnosis and prognosis, they do not reflect on how much money they have made or how much material wealth they’ve earned; they reflect on what has happened in their relationships.”

“Things like saying ‘I love you,’ to a family member, their children, or a friend, or patching up an argument with a loved one can be very difficult. However, throughout a person’s journey, they may feel that they want to express things that they haven’t been able to before – and that’s where I am able to support them. We talk about how they might approach a conversation, what they might say, how they might react – things like that.”

“It’s very normal that people don’t want to talk about death. They don’t want to talk about dying, or their illness. But by alleviating the pressures of practical issues they might be concerned about, a door is opened to enable them to discuss things on an emotional level.”

“Talking about things with someone outside of the family can be of huge benefit to people. We are all human beings, and unless we take time to reflect on life, I think we would find it very difficult to cope.”

“Facing death, one of the most difficult journeys in life, can lead to people feeling out of control as they can’t predict what will happen in their lives anymore. My role is to facilitate the taking back of control.”

Everybody deals with things in different ways, and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to react to anything. At St Clare, the diversity of support that patients and families can access means that a person’s whole journey can be supported, with the help they receive being tailored to them personally. Although our roles within the Patient and Family Support team cross over a lot, there are big differences between each of us:

  • A social worker works with the immediate concerns a person may have. I support people in emotional distress, including grief and loss, as well as practical issues which are linked to the impact of their illness.
  • A bereavement counsellor goes back over a person’s childhood and history in the context of their past, and explores how the bereavement might have triggered past concerns. They support patients, families and their care-givers both pre and post bereavement.
  • The Children and Young Person’s Therapist works directly with under 18’s, as well as with their families, supporting them to express how their experience is impacting on their emotional well-being and behaviour.
  • The Chaplain supports people to find meaning and purpose within their journey from a spiritual perspective. This includes people who have a traditional religion or faith, as well as those who find spirituality in other connections.
  • Community Friend volunteers are able to offer a wide range of support, to reduce the social and emotional isolation many people can feel during their journey.

“A hospice’s services are all joined-up, which is a massive comfort to people; everything is in one place. We’ve got the nurse, we’ve got the doctor, we’ve got the physiotherapist, we’ve got the social worker… the list goes on.”

“On top of everything, the hospice is located in a beautiful environment – like a little oasis in the middle of what can feel like chaos.”

“Every member of the hospice team works together to meet the needs of an individual – that’s what palliative care is. It’s not just medical – it’s about supporting them with the entire picture.”

“Except, I often find that people are fearful of the hospice, and also of social workers in general. Sometimes, people worry that I am there because I think they’re neglecting they’re kids, or that I want to put people straight into a nursing home, but it’s simply not true! I alleviate people’s fears, as soon as I realise they feel that way.”

“I can tell you for sure that virtually every single patient and family member has said the same phrase to me at some point in their time with St Clare: ‘I feel so safe’.”

“I hear it all the time – because it’s true. As soon as someone takes that first step with St Clare, and ignores their preconceptions of a hospice, their eyes are opened to just how wonderful a place it is, and what the staff here are like.”

“It’s a privilege working at St Clare – I absolutely love my job. It’s a privilege being allowed into people’s worlds and their journeys, coming alongside them and supporting them however I can. It is so rewarding.”

“I’ve had so many beautiful moments whilst at St Clare, where I know how I’ve been able to make a difference to people’s lives. Sometimes, it can be so difficult for a person to talk about their prognosis, death, dying and their illness. I’ll get to know that person, and talk with them about their lives, their families, their love stories…”

“I will build months and months’ worth of rapport and trust with a person, so that they eventually feel able to go away and talk to their families about their feelings and emotions around what is happening.”

“The practical support I can offer is also hugely gratifying – when I can help a person to get welfare benefits because they can’t work, so that they can put food on the table; or when I help to arrange their children’s Birthday party; find a new home for their beloved family pet; assist in organising special, family holidays; the variety of assistance I have offered is endless. These tangible improvements that people benefit from are so important; it’s all about helping the journey to be a bit easier, and making special memories that will last forever.”

“Hospice Care Week is so important because the community needs to know that St Clare is there to support them. I think a lot of people aren’t necessarily aware of what we do, and if we can promote our work in the community, perhaps we will be able to see people much earlier on in their diagnosis.”

– Michele

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