The first thing that struck me was a buzz of activity in the room, rather like an active social club. Groups of volunteers and service users were involved in a range of different activities. Some were chatting, some were engaged in creative work producing items which were destined for sale at the Christmas fayre, some knitting blanket squares for overseas aid, one or two were reading and doing crossword and other puzzles, some were to commence playing cards or chess, and there were some who were going off somewhere or returning from somewhere.
I was introduced to everybody individually. I realised that I would have my work cut out to remember the names of all the 15 or so service users, not being one of those folks who can immediately recall people’s names after one meeting! But I was able to get there after a couple of meetings or so. It was easier with the nursing staff and volunteers because they all wore name labels, but there did seem to be so many of them.
On that first visit, I spent most of my time in chatting, but I did meet up with the complementary therapist for some reflexology which I found so relaxing. Then there was lunch! This turned out to be absolutely fabulous, with homemade soup, a choice of main course, and also a choice of desserts. That provided an opportunity to talk to some of the folks I had not chatted to so far.
Apart from lunch, I ought to mention other refreshment opportunities. On arrival, there is a welcoming cup of tea or coffee with biscuits. Before lunch, there is a drinks trolley with a range from lemonade and soft drinks through to sherry and port. Tea or coffee after lunch as you would expect, and then later on usually a piece of cake and another cuppa! As if that is not enough, you have only to ask at any time if you need something to drink, and it will be provided with a smile.
After lunch, I had a discussion with the nursing sister who explained to me just what support was available through the Day Hospice . We arranged a meeting for myself and my daughter to get together with her and a social worker to discuss my background circumstances and health issues, and just what might be my expectations of attendance. It was all a bit much to take in at the first meeting, but it was indeed a treasure trove of opportunity.
Over the next few weeks I discovered that support ranged from a hospice doctor, complementary therapy, physiotherapy, clinical psychologist, creative therapy, occupational therapist, nursing services including assistance with baths, through to social service contacts, manicurist, a foot practitioner to provide chiropody support, and hairdressing. And that is not counting the ever-increasing support I was to receive from other service users. There was also a visit from the hospice chaplain who came in and chatted with folks, and I discovered that she occasionally held short services in the hospice chapel for those who might be interested.
One of the other things that struck me was the almost complete absence of negative discussion about our various illnesses. Occasionally someone might ask what my problems might be, but in a non-morbid way, and so it would be very much like answering “Oh, I’ve got a cold”. It did not result in an exchange of symptoms, because everyone was aware that each of us had some life-limiting condition. Much more important was the positive atmosphere at the hospice, and the truly loving care which showed through the attitudes of the staff and the volunteers.
So my first day came to an end with my three questions from my previous blog completely answered:
Would I find a state of apathy, and folks sitting and waiting to die? Definitely not – this was clearly a place where folks came to live.
Would anyone be interested in me? Yes, absolutely everyone!
What would I able to do for five hours? A multitude of things (and I was subsequently to find that sometimes five hours seems too short!).
From the above it is pretty obvious that another question “Shall I come again now I’ve seen what goes on?” could only have one answer. To prove it, I am still coming after eighteen months, and I start looking forward to my next Tuesday visit by the preceding Friday!
However, I need to say still more about my reception at the Day Hospice, and to look at just how the unit provides a special kind of support which is not really available elsewhere. But I think that had better wait until another time.