As part of Dying Matters Week, we hear from those who've been supported to live well through a life-limiting illness
“What would we do without North Devon Hospice?” asks Kim Frow of Woolacombe, whose mum was cared for by the charity in her final weeks. This care meant Daphne was able to die peacefully at home, exactly where she wanted to be. As part of national Dying Matters Week, Kim talks about why our final weeks are as important as any other.
“I am passionate about hospices having had the privilege of seeing the work they do first hand,” said Kim Frow.
Having worked for a hospice in Lincolnshire for 10 years, she knew just who to turn to when her mum was sadly diagnosed with an inoperable kidney cancer here in North Devon. “I had always been on the other end, seeing the excellent care that patients and their families receive, then suddenly I found myself trying to convince my parents that they needed some extra support to help them through the difficult times ahead”.
Having moved to Woolacombe seven years ago Kim went into North Devon Hospice to see if she could talk to someone and to find out what support was available in this area. “One of the specialist nurses came down to speak to me and I felt reassured that they would be able to help. I was upset as I was going away for a few weeks and worried that Dad would not have any extra support should he need it. It was so comforting to know that the hospice would be there if he needed them.” said Kim.
The wheels were put in motion and Kim’s mum, Daphne, was visited by a hospice Community Nurse Specialist after a referral from her GP. The first visit was about finding out how the hospice could help support the family. Daphne wanted to stay at home and her husband, the main carer, wanted to make sure she had the best care possible and that she was not in any pain.
“Throughout Mum’s journey the hospice was there to talk over things with all of us, to help with the medication and to ensure we had everything we needed. My mum was awake most nights, which meant Dad was finding it hard to sleep and was very tired as a result. The hospice sent a volunteer once a week to provide some time for Dad to catch up on his sleep while they looked after my mum. That volunteer was incredible and the family are so thankful to her.”
Daphne died peacefully at home, thanks to the care provided by North Devon Hospice.
Naomi Mohabeer, team leader for the hospice’s Community Nurse Specialists, said that care towards the end of life is vital yet not often talked about. “Dying well is something that we all want, but also something that people rarely discuss,” she said. “Our aim is to make sure that we provide the right care for every individual patient. Often that means helping them to remain at home, where people just like Daphne are most comfortable. Therefore, our Community Nurses Specialists visit patients at home regularly to make sure their medication is managed to help keep them as pain free as possible. But we also have a Hospice to Home team that can be with patients round the clock and this is a vital service to help patients remain at home.”
Naomi said that Dying Matters Week should offer people the opportunity to talk about their wishes. “For some reason it is a taboo subject, when it really shouldn’t be,” she said. “Our last days are as important as our first, so we should feel comfortable talking about how we’d like to be cared for when the time comes. Kim’s story shows what a difference it can make to have the right care towards the end of life, tailored towards the individual. That is always our goal at North Devon Hospice, and we are very grateful to Kim for sharing her experience, which will hopefully help others to have that conversation.”