Alison praises hospice team which helped Barry fulfil his end of life wishes
“When you feel like the world is on your shoulders, the support from St Catherine’s helps to make the situation that little bit more bearable.”
The words of Alison Beattie, whose partner Barry Hollinshead was cared for by our Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team at home in Clayton Brook. The expert nurses work across Central Lancashire providing specialised care and psychological support in the places people call home.
She is sharing her experiences of the care the family received as part of the 2019 Open Up Hospice Care campaign, which sees St Catherine’s join with Hospice UK and other hospices across the country to put the spotlight on the difference they make. This year’s theme is care at home, and aims to highlight that a lot of hospice care takes place outside of the hospice building.
Barry, a long-time supporter of the hospice, was diagnosed with a melanoma on his arm in early 2017. He underwent surgery to remove it which was successful, but later in the year he found a lump in his lymph nodes at the top of his arm. Doctors confirmed the cancer had returned, and had spread to his liver, spleen and bones, giving him a prognosis of six to 12 months.
“It was a big shock to him,” Alison said. “A big shock for us all.
“Our response was to try and do as much as we could together to make as many special memories as possible.”
Over the spring and summer of 2018 the couple went on trips to everywhere from Turkey to Cyprus, as well as a cruise of the Greek islands and the Adriatic.
But in October, after experiencing some problematic symptoms linked to his condition, Barry, aged 65, was admitted to the in-patient unit at St Catherine’s in a bid to get on top of them and make him more comfortable.
Alison said: “He was in for two weeks and they really sorted out his issues.
“Contrary to what people might think about hospices, Barry then came home. That had always been the plan – initially he didn’t want to go in, but agreed as long he could later come home. From very early on, he had decided he wanted to die at home.”
As part of his discharge plan – as well as ensuring Alison and Barry had the equipment he needed – Barry was put under the care of the hospice’s CNS team, who liaise with GPs, district nurses and other health care professionals to ensure those leaving the hospice have access to the on-going support they need.
Alison, aged 51, said: “Barry was okay for a couple of days when he first got home, but then the pain really started to become a problem. He’d been on a syringe driver in the hospice and that’s what he needed. Once he agreed, our CNS arranged it and it was here within 24 hours.
“When he became less mobile, we started to worry about pressure sores – and again, she was there to help with getting a special bed sorted. I wouldn’t have known where to start, and was clueless about what was even available, so having her help and advice made such a difference.
“Whenever I had concerns or questions I could talk to her – she was great and clearly very knowledgeable and experienced. I always looked forward to her visits.”
Crucially, Alison said having the ‘back up’ and support of their CNS helped to fulfil Barry’s wishes about the end of his life. He died at home in February, with Alison and his loved ones nearby.
“Barry wanted to be at home,” she said.
“We are both home-birds and it was important to him that he was in familiar surroundings, where the family could visit easily. I know that without the district nurses and the back-up and support we got from the CNS team that this would have been much harder – and might not even have been possible – so I am extremely grateful for all that they did.”
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