A daughter who is caring for both of her parents as they live with incurable cancer says she would be at breaking point without the support of St Catherine’s Hospice.
Sarah Murray is the main carer for both her mum Harriet and dad Stephen, who are each living with multiple complex health conditions.
Along with the physical strain of managing everything from personal care to laundry, housekeeping and shopping, the 44-year-old mum-of-two is trying to come to terms emotionally with the fact both her ‘wonderful’ parents are seriously ill at the same time.
Sarah says she would be ‘lost’ without the support and advice of their St Catherine’s community palliative care nurse, who is “worth her weight in gold.”
It’s why she’s backing an appeal by the Central Lancashire hospice which is asking for more people to sign up to give a regular, monthly donation to the charity which depends on public support to raise £4m of its £5.8m running costs.
Sarah, who lives in Lostock Hall, said: “The support from St Catherine’s has been an absolute God-send.
“I’d nearly reached breaking point a few weeks ago – dad had deteriorated very quickly and it looked like we might be losing him; I hadn’t slept with worry. I just called Karen and burst into tears. She listened, she actively listened, she didn’t patronise me and she let me let it all out. And then, when I’d had that release, she worked with me to formulate and deliver a plan to make sure dad was comfortable and his needs were met.”
Sarah runs her own health and social care agency and consultancy, working a lot with care homes to implement training and improvements.
It means she has lots of relevant knowledge and experience to help with caring for Harriet – aged 68, who has bladder cancer, COPD and a cognitive impairment after having a stroke in 2019 – and Stephen, 72, who has liver and bone cancer as well as diabetes.
But she says she is so grateful for the advice, support and reassurance she and her parents get from their St Catherine’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, who is part of a team who visit people at home across Chorley, Preston and South Ribble.
Sarah said: “Yes I have lots of experience but when it’s your mum and dad you start questioning yourself – am I doing it right? Is there more that could be done?
“Before we were referred to St Catherine’s we’d slipped through the net really – no-one was supporting us. We’d only got dad’s cancer diagnosis in the height of the pandemic because we’d paid for a private scan when he’d complained consistently of stomach pains.
“Now we have the reassurance and the back-up from Karen. Not only is she great with mum and dad – working with them in very different ways to suit their different characters – but she is our advocate with the other services we need. She chases things up, she gets things done. She’s on our team and it makes such a difference.
“As well as all that, she looks after me too – insisting that I take some time for myself, which I know is important, but it’s easier said than done.”
Most importantly, Sarah says –along with the support of her family which includes husband Simon, daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Isaac – the help of St Catherine’s has enabled her to keep going caring for her beloved mum and dad.
“Yes it is hard,” Sarah said, “but they’re my mum and dad.
“I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have parents like them. They have always been there for me and I will continue to be there for them.
“With Karen on my side, offering her expertise, reassurance and the space that gives me to re-charge my batteries and carry on, I will be there for them until the end.”
- To sign up to give a regular donation to St Catherine’s each month – helping to fund this vital service for families across Chorley, Preston and South Ribble, please click here.
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