I will be forever grateful for the home care which let us say goodbye to Mum in the most precious way we could

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Beforehand I just thought that hospice care was a place that you went to die, somewhere ‘nicer’ than a hospital!  Afterwards I realised that the Florence Nightingale Hospice team offer so much more and I will be forever grateful for the home care they offered which absolutely enabled us to say goodbye to Mum in the most precious way we could. 

Kelly Smith’s mother, Carol, received care and support from one of Florence Nightingale Hospice’s Community Palliative Care Nurses, Ann, and from the Nightingale 24/7 team following her terminal bowel cancer diagnosis in July 2016.

“Ann visited my Mum on a regular basis, offering her and my Dad support from diagnosis to the end; which was one year, one week and one day from diagnosis.

If I’m honest my Mum didn’t talk about the details to us, but I know that she appreciated the time that Ann spent with her, in particular talking through the chemo treatment and side effects, managing the complexities of life with a stoma and of the emotional support of the terminal diagnosis.

One thing that really sticks in my mind is the time Ann also spent talking to my Dad to make sure he was receiving the support and advice he needed.”

In July 2017 Carol’s health began to deteriorate quickly and the family realised that they had to make some decisions about how to manage the last few weeks and days of her life.

“We have a very close extended family, including my mum’s Mum, sister and brother; who all came up to spend precious time with Mum and help to look after her.  The Hospice team enabled us to spend quality time with Mum, without worrying about anything.

We’d never really spoken to Mum about where she wanted to die, the closest we had come was that we had recently suffered a family members loss to cancer in a hospice and Mum had said at the time, that she would want the same.  We knew from Ann that if we didn’t deal with it soon, the decision would be taken away from us, as she would be too poorly to move.

When we spoke to Mum she surprisingly told us that she wanted to stay at home; I’ll always be thankful to Mum for making that decision, as I couldn’t have imagined spending her last few days with her anywhere other than at home.

My Dad and Auntie cared for my Mum with the support of the FNH team who came in twice daily for the last week.  We received support on how to manage Mum’s medication and make her comfortable.

Ann was great at offering me advice on when and how to talk to my young children about their Grandma and was clear with me that it was now or never, just a few days before the end.  This enabled the girls to come and visit Mum one last time at home to say their goodbyes, a moment that will always be so precious to us, as out of nowhere Mum heard their voices and woke up to smile and hug them, before telling them to go and play in the park!

The last couple of days was obviously the hardest, but made so much easier by the great support of the Hospice team who were on call 24 hours a day to help us.  The nurses were always so caring towards Mum, making sure she was comfortable and not in pain.  They would talk to all of us as a family,  ensuring we were ok, ensuring we knew what to do and how to care for Mum.

I couldn’t be more grateful to the Hospice for enabling us to say goodbye together in such a precious way.  I miss her immensely, we all do, but I  know I have been able to cope with her loss so much better, because it wasn’t traumatic.  It’s the single most hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, but I know we all coped so much better due to the way in which we were able to be together in the last few days.

I hope my Mum’s story of her experience with Florence Nightingale Hospice resonates with others and I hope that it gives those that are dealing with similar situations the hope and strength that they need to get through it, knowing that the Hospice can be there to support them.”