And what strange months they have been! We imagine yours have been too. A week before national lockdown began, St Mary’s Hospice recognised that those most at risk were those we saw regularly either as patients or volunteers. That’s people living with advancing illness and older people. At that point we sent all volunteers home and closed down all face to face services from both hospice buildings.
With face to face services closed the Living Well team set up the Barrow centre as a hub to support people who needed to self-isolate to stay safe. When people phoned in we, our partners and our retail team would deliver food donated by individuals and businesses, pick up prescriptions or just have a chat. At the end of this first month we handed responsibility for the delivery aspects of the hub to Barrow Borough Council and Age UK as we needed this team to support the patients in our beds. Our Bereavement Service staff and volunteers kept delivering the emotional support our community needed by phone.
We agreed with local NHS services that we could support them best by re-opening 4 of our original beds and continuing to use the rest of our nursing team to deliver care into patients’ own homes. This means our beds and community team have been very busy during this period. Because of fears of catching coronavirus many people chose to stay at home in their own beds with our support. If people didn’t feel safe with us going into their home Hospice at Home supported them through regular telephone calls.
As we moved on in time our Living Well and Bereavement teams continued to offer support through closed Facebook pages, telephone support and zoom calls. This support has continued to expand so we can now offer activities like exercise classes and quizzes in virtual ways. We’re very aware this doesn’t reach everyone so have kept a telephone support system in place for those less digitally inclined.
As we move forward we will continue to expand the services we can offer and are currently exploring how we can engage more of our fantastic volunteers in a support network from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
There have been enormous changes during this time. Our bereavement service has had an increase of 40% in referrals with many using this service experiencing distress caused by losing people unexpectedly and quickly and not being able to be with them at the end. There have been changes to our other services too with more people coming in to our beds now right at the end of life than did previously.
Initially, like all charities, we were worried about the financial impact of COVID. Our shops have been shut and fundraising almost stopped. But we weren’t figuring with the fantastic and creative support we’d get from local supporters. They have never stopped raising funds to keep our services going. We’ve also had grants for our shops from the councils and a grant from government to pay for some of our additional capacity. So we feel confident to say we will be here to support people who need us for a long time yet. However with the continued growth in need we do still need your support and would ask you to consider joining our regular giving scheme to donate a few pounds a month to help us deliver our promise to you, that we will always keep making a difference when it matters most.