Amy, from New Whittington in Chesterfield, said, “I’d expected it to be more like a hospital but its nothing like it. It’s more like somebody’s house with nurses in it, just how friendly and nice it is. It’s like a house with hand sanitizer and hospital beds. Even the food isn’t hospital food its proper food like a hotel.”
Amy’s grandad, Tom, was diagnosed with bowel cancer initially, but became progressively ill as it spread to his liver. He was eventually admitted into Ashgate and died three weeks later on 13th December 2013 when Amy was 13 years old. Throughout the time that Tom was in the Hospice, the family were able to spend time with him and remain close at such as difficult time.
Amy said, “We just moved in, walked around in our socks. It felt like home to the point that we missed being here. It’s not somewhere you expect to miss but you do. It becomes part of your life.
“For the first two weeks I didn’t have any time off school. I’d come here after school, do my homework, have my tea, and then for the last week, I came out of school and we stayed here all the time, from the Tuesday afternoon to the Friday night.”
Amy’s mum, Sue, 48, felt the time they were given at the hospice to be together as a family was very important and enabled her to be a daughter rather than a carer.
Sue said, “Being there allows you to be someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, partner, because the caring side is being looked after by the staff. I could just be my dad’s daughter and do daughter things and that side of it was lovely.”
Amy added, “It was weird because you can say it was good fun. We had a laugh; grandad was laughing. Nurses come in and make you smile. Everybody makes it such a happy experience. The only bad thing is that that person passed away here and what that person went through.”
Death is a time which everyone imagines or deals with in different ways, but the thing that Amy and Sue remember through their experience at the Hospice was calmness and being given the time they needed.
Amy said “When the person dies, at a hospital you would expect all the nurses to rush in and kick the family out. Whereas at Ashgate, you’re left a bit to stay as long as you want.”
Sue said, “When my dad actually went, it was like a movie ending. Mum got on the bed and lay cuddling him and the rest of the family were around him too. I held his hand and watched him drift away whilst this beautiful music was playing.
“It made my dads death a very sad and frightening experience not so frightening, very respectful and very dignified. It was the same with my brother-in-law, John.”
One of the key aspects about hospice care is that both the medical and emotional needs of a patient are taken care of, and the emotional care and support extends to their family too.
Amy said, “It’s not just the patient in the bed, it’s the relatives as well. When you look back, it’s blatantly obvious they were looking after the relatives too.
“They treat the whole patient here, even the personality. They knew grandad liked having a laugh so they’d come in and play along with him. They get to know the character. It’s not all about the illness; he wasn’t just a number.
“It makes it a lot calmer, that actual thing of death and dying. The hospice makes it more calm and not so scary, so quiet and gentle.”
Sue said, “Its not just nurses, its the health care assistants, kitchen staff, the ladies who come round with the dinner trolleys, volunteers, they were all caring and considerate. They would ask if he needed help and make sure you’re all alright, it’s unbelievable how much care they can pay whilst doing their job so well. They’re really good what they do at treating the patient and medical needs and also really good at being caring
Amy said, “You’ll never forget it, in a good way. It makes the last moments of someone’s life very special, it’s horrible but it’s also very special. You’ve got the memories of laughter, memories of how nice and friendly they are.”