Talking about death and what ‘dying well’ would look like was something Keith Brown and his wife Kate were never afraid to discuss following her terminal cancer diagnosis in 2016.
Being open and honest about the heart-breaking situation their family found themselves in meant Kate was able to live the last years of her life to the full, whilst dying in peace and comfort at home thanks to the care and support of Ashgate Hospicecare.
Kate received ‘warm and compassionate’ care at the North Derbyshire hospice, from her first visits to the Day Hospice until the day of her death on 27th November 2020.
Now, as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, Keith has spoken of Kate’s end-of-life journey and the care the family received at Ashgate, to highlight the importance of not shying away from talking about death.
The 72-year-old said: “Kate was so strong; she was a tremendous person. Her spirit, faith, determination and her happiness despite having a terminal prognosis spilled over to us and talking about the situation meant it was easier for us to deal with.
“We started talking very openly about the end of her life as soon as she was given a terminal diagnosis. We spoke about it together and with our boys Alex and Sam; we were all dealing with it differently, but it made everything much easier for us all.
“Kate had such an uplifting spirit, she would always say ‘I’m not dead yet, so we’ve got lots of living to do!’
“We decided to live our lives to the full which meant we were able to make special memories together through our shared loved of photography and on unforgettable trips to Switzerland.
“Kate was always determined to live every moment and that’s exactly what we did!”
Kate, who lived in Hope and worked as an accounts assistant, was anxious about accessing the hospice’s services at first because she thought hospices were places of ‘doom and gloom’.
But Keith insists when Kate first attended the Day Hospice, which provides specialist palliative care to patients who are living with a life-limiting illness; that was far from the case. They found Ashgate to be a ‘beautifully calming and happy’ environment, which will now forever hold a special place in the family’s hearts.
He added: “Ashgate became a very special place for us after it helped Kate and I physically, spiritually and mentally. We were nervous about visiting the hospice at first but the welcome we received was overwhelming and from then on, our experiences were always second-to-none.
“We discussed it beforehand, and it was her wish to die at home. As she got progressively more poorly, it turned out to be the best decision for us all, as she was so comfortable with the support of Ashgate by our side.
“It was difficult because of the lockdown but Ashgate made sure there was someone there in the weeks leading up to Kate’s death and they were even there to support us on the day she passed.
“For us, receiving the support of the hospice felt as if a burden had been lifted. The people are so compassionate and are there to give you the support that you need.
“From the nurses that came out to care for Kate to the counselling I received to help me adjust before and following her death, the care was excellent, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their loving support.”
Between 10th and 16th May, Ashgate Hospicecare is joining organisations from across the UK in opening up the conversation around death, dying and bereavement for Dying Matters Awareness Week.
This comes as statistics show nearly a quarter of UK adults are uncomfortable thinking about their own death and end-of-life issues.
To join in with the conversation this Dying Matters Awareness Week follow Ashgate Hospice on social media at @ashgate_hospice or visit www.ashgatehospicecare.org.uk