‘Carers’ are the unpaid army of family and friends who spend many hours caring for and supporting people with physical and mental illness and disability, above and beyond the services that statutory, private and/or charitable health & social care organisations provide.
The week of 8th-14th June is national Carers Week, with a rallying call of ‘Making Caring Visible’, it’s designed to raise awareness of the estimated 6.5 million people who have unpaid caring responsibilities across the UK.
Wirral Hospice St John’s spiritual care coordinator, Heather MacLeod (a little more about her later), reminded me of these lyrics, famously sung by Celine Dion*, to capture all we contemplate during national Carers Week.
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you love me
Carers will often class themselves as, just, a wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, grandparent or other family member or friend. Their care comes from a sense of duty and a deep well of love.
We see this, close up, every single day at Wirral Hospice St John’s.
Supporting and caring for people with life limiting illnesses is at the heart of everything we do and, in order to really know our patients, to extend the care and support we provide for them, we also offer services designed to help their carers, practically, spiritually and emotionally.
In normal times we’ll see and work with carers in all of our settings, Inpatients, Outpatients, Wellbeing Centre (day services) and Hospice at Home.
The current coronavirus crisis, calling on all of us to limit direct contact and minimise all but essential travel, has inevitably altered our ways of reaching out to carers.
Early on in the pandemic even visiting in our Inpatients ward was severely restricted. We managed ways to allow a small number of closest relatives to visit loved ones by supplying face masks and other personal protective equipment and reinforcing hand washing and safety recommendations.
For the wider family we’ve been providing patients with electronic equipment, such as IPads, if they don’t have their own, so that they can see each other and chat.
Although some of the patient and family services team are working from home (hello Suzanne and Co) they are set up to continue working with patients and their carers. Where we can’t meet with carers, which is in most services just now, we’re staying in touch through telephone calls and other electronic communications.
On Friday of Carers Week we brought an afternoon tea for the visitors to our inpatients to remind them how we appreciate their massive contribution to the wellbeing of their loved ones. Scones with jam and cream and a nice drink… mmmmm!
Enquiries about welfare benefits and signposting to emotional and psychological support, including liaison with other local agencies, while agreeing plans of action are still being handled by our professional social workers, James and Ann-Marie.
Bereavement counselling, facilitated by the most accomplished listener, Stella, also continues in what are especially psychologically distressing circumstances for families. (A mention here for our other counsellor, Emily, (pictured left) who is on maternity leave with all of our best wishes).
Occupational therapists, physiotherapists and exercise co-ordinators, Sarah, Miriam, Elizabeth and Tracy (hello to Katy also on maternity leave) continue to work with patients and source instruction videos for those at home with their families and other carers.
We’ve had to suspend our aromatherapy service, provided in normal times by the most soothing and empathetic practitioner, Lindsey, because of the necessary close proximity of delivery. We look forward to restoring the service as soon as we can.
And, of course, the wonderful Heather MacLeod, (our spiritual care coordinator,read a little bit more about Heather here), is available to provide her heartfelt comfort and advice to people who are sometimes struggling to find meaning or peace in what are really the most challenging time of their lives.
To all those families and other carers of our patients, your loved ones, please know Wirral Hospice St John’s is here for you.
Author: Billy Howard
*Words to ‘Because you loved me’ written by Diane Warren © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management
All photos taken pre-COVID social distancing regulations.