My name’s Gwen Harding and I’m a Community Nurse Specialist at Weston Hospicecare. You probably know about our lovely hospice building over on Thornbury Road in Weston-super-Mare. But what people don’t always realise is that we have eight Community Nurses who care for hundreds of patients and their families in their own homes, from Clevedon all the way down to Highbridge.
As a proud member of that team, I know that when someone is told they have a life-limiting illness, it can feel as though their world has fallen apart. But it’s where we can step in and help carry some of that burden.
This was true for a man I cared for this past year, Peter. I looked after Peter and his lovely wife, Denise, after he was diagnosed with cancer; it was so important to them both to stay at home in Wrington, where they felt safe and comfortable. Each week, it was my privilege to visit them there, to help Peter cope with his symptoms as well as enable Denise to care for her beloved husband as best she could when I couldn’t be with them. And in Peter’s final days, I was there to help bring peace, dignity and comfort to them both.
Our goal is to help each person we meet live their life to the absolute fullest.
This means caring – helping alleviate someone’s pain and bringing quality to the days that remain. It means support and reassurance, for a patient or for a loved one, who has so many questions about the new and often frightening journey they’re on. And it means time; one of the most valuable things we can give to other people. We can’t count the days, but we can make each day count.
The past few years, however, we’ve been called on to care for more people coping with a life-limiting illness – many who’d like to spend the time they have left at home. I’m proud to say that we’ve never, ever turned anyone away. But our biggest challenge today is meeting the need for the kind of compassionate, specialist care that Weston Hospicecare has delivered for the past 30 years.
And I must tell you, that the eight of us nurses are completely flat out. Each of us does our best to step up when needed and make that one last visit after hours on a very busy day or to check in with a worried loved one on the phone. But, our dedicated team is reaching breaking point; we absolutely must act to make sure no one slips through the net and ensure we never, ever have to say ‘No’ to someone at the most vulnerable time in their life. In order to continue to deliver the same quality care we’re known for throughout our community, we’ve realised that we absolutely must bring a new nurse into the team.
A new Community Nurse will guarantee that we’re always available for families who desperately need our support in their own home. This crucial member of our team will take the pressure off the eight of us as an extra pair of expert hands – meaning we can guide families through the beginning, middle and of course, the end of their journey – just as we did with Peter and Denise. It will also mean we have more time – with patients and their loved ones – to relieve the isolation and worry that serious illness brings.
But, as a charity, we receive very little government funding for our Community Hospice service – it’s special people like you who enable our nurses to do this vital work. By leaving a gift in memory of someone special, you’ve already enabled our nurses to deliver much-needed care. You know how crucial this care is for local people, and that’s why I’ve come to you with this special, urgent request. Could you make a gift today to help us to bring a new nurse into the team – so that we can reach everyone who will need us in the coming years?
The very first visit by our new nurse, to say hello to a new family and talk through all the ways we can help our patient to live days of quality and comfort, will cost £32.75. A full day’s support by our new nurse for several patients across Northern Somerset, costs £152.84. To provide compassionate care in the final week of a person’s life, when they need us more than ever, we must find £1,069.88.
Deep down, I felt that our need was simply too important not to share with you; we absolutely must be able to provide this vital service over the next 30 years – just as we have since the day we opened 30 years ago. But we cannot do it alone; we can only continue with the support of the community we serve.
I love being a nurse and it’s wonderful to support people like Peter and Denise, to listen to their stories, to hear the music behind their words. She really shows the kind of impact we can make when we’re able to spend quality time with local families; please do have a look. There’s a little map below which shows the areas our lovely Community Nurses visit.
I really hope that by the end of this year, we have a brand-new nurse to add to the map and to help us take up this challenge. Every single penny you’re able to give will be so gratefully received, and please know that I will be sure to keep you posted and let you know how our new, enhanced team is getting on.
Thank you, so much, for taking the time to read this. I wish you and those you love a brilliant summer.
Make a donation at westonhospicecare.org.uk/make-a-donation