Alison’s story

“St Clare’s is just amazing. It is like a safe bubble, where you are picked up when you are at your worst. It doesn’t solve it, but gives you a hand to hold on to, to get through it.”

In 2018 my Dad, Alan, was complaining about a pain in his rib. I nagged him to go to the doctors and after various medical appointments, we found out that he had prostate cancer. Eventually Dad’s condition got worse and Lockdown had hit, it was the height of Covid, and I was nervous to take my precious Dad in to the GP surgery in case he caught it.”

“My Mum was just about on her knees with caring for Dad. That was when we got in touch with St Clare Hospice. We spoke to St Clare and then all of a sudden, everybody swooped in to help us out.”

“Dad was cared for at home, near Saffron Walden, by the Hospice at Home team. He always looked forward to their visits, and they became like part of the family.”

“He would muck around, and a have a laugh with the nursing assistants. He loved them, and their help was just brilliant – for us as a family, as well as Dad. We could ask them questions and they gave so much support.”

Hospice at Home night sitter

“Having the Hospice at Home night sitter was a huge help. I live just round the corner from my parents’ house, and would often get a call during the night to go around and help when Dad had fallen. For weeks, I was only getting 3 or 4 hours sleep a night.”

“It was so lovely when Pauline, the night sitter from Hospice at Home, came and it meant that my husband and I could just go to bed and know that both Mum and Dad were safe.”

“Pauline was so lovely, but I had to tell my mum off for staying up all night and chatting to her, instead of going to sleep! Mum then went off to sleep and said that she’d had the best night sleep in months.”

“Having the Hospice at Home night sitter there, meant Mum could properly switch off, not keep an ear open for Dad, and actually sleep without worrying if she had to go and help pick him up off the floor.”

“I remember going round their house the next morning and Pauline and Dad were sitting there with a cup of tea chatting about motorbikes, that was Dad’s thing, and it was just lovely to see. Because we had all had a good night’s sleep it meant we were refreshed and could all go again that day, and had the energy we needed to keep caring.”

“Mum and Dad were very independent, and so it was hard for them to accept help. Asking people for help, for that generation, comes a bit tougher than perhaps my generation. Mum didn’t want the neighbours to see that Dad had carers coming in, but she came around to accepting help when she saw how much Dad enjoyed the nursing assistants coming, and how much it helped her too.”

“Dad wanted to die at home, and we were able to make that happen with the support of St Clare Hospice. He was cared for by the Hospice at Home team for around four weeks before he died on 18 August 2020.”

Care for Mum too

“Then, just a year later in August 2021, the family got together to remember Dad on the first anniversary of his death. My Mum and Dad had been together for more than 70 years when he died. It was like my Mum’s entire lifetime had been ripped away from her. But she had just made it through that first year without Dad.”

“It was that day, the first anniversary of Dad’s death, that my Mum, Marjorie, complained about a pain in her arm and feeling sick. After checks at the hospital, we were told that Mum also had cancer and had only a few short months to live.”

“They say when you lose someone you love, the first year without them is the worst. You get your ‘firsts’ of everything. Your first Christmas or birthday without them is tough. We had just got through the year of firsts for Dad and then we had to go through it all again, with Mum.”

The St Clare Inpatient Unit

“Mum came to stay on St Clare’s Inpatient Unit for a week – it was a tough week, but she had the most lovely time. Mum loved the garden and the chef was amazing. She sat and talked to Mum about what she liked, and said she would cook whatever Mum fancied. They made her eggs and Mum called them the ‘best boiled eggs ever’.”

“I always thought the Hospice was a place you came to die, but it isn’t like that at all. It is right beside the motorway, but it is so peaceful – it is a different world to the one going on outside.”

“The Hospice is so full of love for everybody, and it isn’t a sad place. We didn’t meet anybody we didn’t love – the staff, the doctors, the volunteers. You have got your own garden, kitchen, and TV. I wouldn’t be worried about going to a Hospice myself now.”

“St Clare’s is just amazing. It is like a safe bubble, where you are picked up when you are at your worst. It doesn’t solve it, but gives you a hand to hold on to, to get through it.”

“At the Hospice you can just spend quality time together. I probably talked Mum’s ear off in the last week we had together, whether she could hear me or not. We were able to be together, and just be Mum and daughter again.”

“I was also able to stay over at the Hospice and slept on a camp bed in Mum’s room with her. The staff were all there for me, as well as Mum. If I was having a meltdown in the middle of the night, the nurses would be there to talk to me.”

“A big thing for Mum was being able to see Milo, our dog, who she loved. He was able to come in to the Hospice and see her every night, which was so important to us. Milo would slide his head under Mum’s hand on the bed, and just stand there with her. Then Milo would go around and see all the other patients, because everyone loved him and wanted to pat him.”

“Mum died at the Hospice on 12 October 2021 with her whole family around her. It was a good death, we couldn’t have asked for it to be any better. Both my Mum and Dad had good deaths, and that is thanks to St Clare’s.”

“Last year was the first Christmas without both Mum and Dad. Losing your parents is just so tough, we were always there for each other. But I know that St Clare is here for me and my family if we need it, with lots of grief and bereavement support. And it gives me peace to know that my Mum and Dad are back together again now.”

– Alison

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