The care provided by St Catherine’s Hospice doesn’t only focus on people living with life-shortening illnesses, but extends to their family and loved ones too. Here, Family Support Manager Cheryl Scott talks about the different ways in which the charity really is there for people when it matters the most.
I am one of four qualified social workers who make up the family support team; we are employed by the hospice and registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). We work with people in our inpatient unit, those who attend day therapy at St Catherine’s, and also with people in their own homes.
We understand that the challenges which come with the diagnosis of a life-shortening illness can feel daunting and it can be difficult for families to accept what is happening. Not only are there medical issues to deal with, there are also social and practical concerns to overcome, and our aim is to work together with hospice staff, patients and their loved ones to help them make practical and emotional adjustments, and enjoy the best quality of life possible.
I have worked at the hospice for nine years having had many years’ experience as a local authority social worker. Some of that was spent working in the community undertaking statutory assessments and for most part in hospitals where I had close links with a local hospice in Oldham.
My intention was to come to St Catherine’s and make a difference to people’s lives and all those who use its services, inclusive of carers, and feel at St Catherine’s we offer a range of services tailored to individual needs.
For this reason, the family support services provided at the hospice have developed and extended over the years, and now include monthly carer drop-in sessions, pre and post bereavement counselling, a bereavement therapy group, and spiritual care inclusive of Remembrance Evenings , and there’s also a dedicated befriending service.
This week is Carers’ Week, and at St Catherine’s we really see the value and commitment of so many carers, so we aim to provide support and guidance to them as much as we can.
Becoming a carer is not a natural choice for many people, and over time it can become a very challenging and sometimes lonely experience.
Part of the family support team’s role at St Catherine’s Hospice is to ensure that the needs of carers are not overlooked; we recognise the vital work carers undertake and we aim to provide practical and emotional support to support them in their roles.
This includes our monthly drop-in sessions, which are supported by a representative from n-compass Carers Support Services. They are support groups to give carers chance to chat with us and each another about their experiences, whilst taking part in activities such as meditation, arts and crafts, or learning new computer skills. Sometimes we have specialist speakers in to offer advice and provide information about particular subjects or conditions, such as dementia.
User involvement is very much promoted and the carers usually decide what activities/speakers they would like to be involved with or listen to at the sessions. Therefore, topics vary but there is a programme available. More recently a few of the carers have run the sessions themselves and supported other carers with card and picture canvas making
The drop-ins offer carers some valuable time to themselves whilst having fun with other like-minded people, and it’s an opportunity for them to ask questions and seek support from our social workers, carer services workers or fellow carers. In addition there is free complementary therapy for the carers who feel they need some rest and relaxation.
Sessions are held at the hospice in Lostock Lane, Lostock Hall, on the first Tuesday of the month from 1pm to 3pm. We welcome in any carers from the local area, regardless of whether there is a connection with the hospice or not.
There’s no need to book in advance but you can call the family support team for more information on 01772 629171.
After a loved one has died, the family support team is also on hand to offer support to relatives and friends to help them cope with their grief.
There is no set timescale for bereavement and everyone’s experience is different, so our bereavement support team provides a number of different ways to help, working either on a one-to-one basis or in a group.
Ongoing support is available thanks to our bereavement support group, which meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 7.30pm and 9pm. Sometimes there is a theme to the session and others are coffee and chat. Free complementary Therapy is also available to those who require it.
The group has been instrumental in helping bereaved families and carers since the hospice was first established in 1985. Anyone who is bereaved is invited to join, not just those known to St Catherine’s.
A bereavement therapy group is also held annually and is by invite only. It runs for seven sessions and provides a structured programme meeting fortnightly and bringing together bereaved relatives and friends to explore their grief in a safe, supportive environment.
When it comes to dealing with the practical aftermath following the death of a loved one, our team is on hand to guide people through processes such as claiming bereavement benefits and securing funeral grants, and to discuss potential changes to things such as housing benefit and council tax. And as an organisational member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), St Catherine’s can also offer counselling – pre and post bereavement – when requested.
Comments from the Bereavement Therapy Group participants:
“Fellow grievers were a joy to journey with.”
“Being with others similarly bereaved helped them to realise that they were not on their own.”
“Able to discuss feelings easily without having to put on a brave face.”
“Although the sessions were sometimes emotive, they found the sessions and talking with people a reason for hope.”
One way in which we support carers and people with life-shortening illnesses is through our popular befriending service, which sees trained volunteers spending time with people in their own homes to keep them company.
This provides a lifeline to carers , giving them time to carry out tasks such as shopping or attending appointments, as well as giving them free time to socialise with friends and have a break from the responsibility of being a full-time carer.
For the service-user, it also provides someone new for them to interact with, and activities can include playing games or doing puzzles, or just chatting and looking through photos. It really depends on what the befriender and service-user fancy doing, and we always try to match people up who have similar interests.
The volunteers also get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people in this way – they make new friends and have fun, whilst giving their time for a worthy cause. We’re on the lookout for more volunteer befrienders at the moment, so please get in touch if you’d like to get involved.
Comments from the users of the service:
“I am very happy with the service and look forward to the visits. It is nice to see a different face and have a chat or go out for a short walk if the weather is nice.”
“I am a quiet person and don’t socialise much. The befriender is aware when I no longer wish to chat and takes herself off to read her book.”
“Befriender is ‘first class’. We get on very well and have a lot in common. I look forward to the befriender’s visits.”
The hospice’s multi-faith chapel is available to everyone as a place for prayer or simply as a quiet space for contemplation and reflection, regardless of secular or spiritual belief. We host weekly services there for those who wish to attend.
We also have volunteer chaplains who visit the hospice weekly who support both inpatients and those attending day therapy, to talk with anyone who wishes to speak with them, whether they have a religious faith or not. Alternatively, we can arrange for individuals’ local faith leaders to visit them whilst in the hospice.
We also host remembrance evenings for those who have been known to hospice services and have held four this year. They are held in the hospice’s Garden Room and people have the opportunity to remember their loved ones in a meaningful way. There is a memory tree for people to leave messages of remembrance for loved ones (the memory tree is in the chapel and available to those who visit to leave a message).
We also provide a yearly Christmas Carol service locally which was held last December at Browndedge St Mary’s Bamber Bridge with carols and a choir, and was very well attended.
For more information about the services provided by the St Catherine’s family support team, click here.