Forty Treetops Hospice Care nurses and healthcare assistants are travelling miles across South Derbyshire and South Nottinghamshire to provide care in the daytime and overnight.
Treetops provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease and heart and respiratory conditions. Last year, Hospice at Home nurses provided over 28,000 hours of care across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Nobody can keep caring for 24 hours a day
Liz Docker, Treetops nurse, said:
“As a carer looking after somebody’s who’s very ill, it’s extremely difficult at home. It can be extremely stressful and really tiring, and nobody can keep caring for 24 hours a day. Nights can be especially difficult for carers.
“We arrive at the house and get to know the patient, get to know the family – and then the family can go and get a good night’s sleep and we do everything that’s needed during the night.
We have got this extra risk going on at the moment
Liz explained how the current situation is affecting the service:
“We’re used to going into these situations where people are very, very ill and where the family is very stressed, but we have got this extra risk going on at the moment.
“We go in as an extra service, on top of the district nurses, carers, social services and whoever else. We each of us, who are going into those houses, are relying on each other and trust each other to follow the guidelines – use the equipment, wash our hands.
“There is a level of anxiety amongst us because this is a situation that we’ve not had to deal with before. The hospice is being very good and doing everything they can to provide us with PPE – gloves, protective aprons and masks – when we can get hold of them. But of course they’re in very short supply especially for community staff like us.
We’ve all got to keep each other safe out there
“I know some nurses are helping in other ways where they can – picking up prescriptions or bits of shopping for the families they’re going out to.
“We also have some nurses who are having to self-isolate or shield, so those of us who can are doing extra nights and trying to plug the gaps, so we can still give the same level of service that we normally would give.
“But we’re using what we can, where we can. We’re obviously washing our hands more frequently than ever and using hand sanitiser gel.
“When we’re not on shift we’re all observing social distancing, so that we can hopefully keep ourselves safe for the rest of the time and then devote ourselves to patients when we’re on duty.
“We’ve all got to keep each other safe out there. That’s an important message for the public to understand – how important it is to keep this going with hand washing and social distancing. It’s because people like us have to keep going to work and we need them to keep doing their bit as well.”
This is not the time to stop giving the care that we give
Liz explained how vital the service is right now:
“The thing is, the people we go out to have got this happening in their lives anyway. These are patients who have got a life-limiting illness like cancer, or motor neurone disease or heart failure. They are reaching the end of their life and that would be happening anyway, whether there is COVID-19 or not.
“This is not the time to stop giving the care that we give. And that’s just the kind of people we are – we’re going to keep going until it’s physically impossible to.”
The hospice has been able to provide their nurses with adequate PPE and also treats and gifts for the team which have been very welcome.
The Hospice at Home Service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year
Teresa Smith, Hospice at Home manager explained:
“The Hospice at Home Service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year – even while the Coronavirus pandemic is taking place.
“Support during the day offers between three and six hours, whilst the night service offer nine hours from 10pm. All the care that is delivered offers the families and carers vital respite, whilst excellent individualised care and support is given to the patient.
I am extremely proud of all my team who continue to work extremely hard. They are our shining stars
“Our nursing team offer both nursing and emotional support to patients and their families. We give families the opportunity to be as involved as they wish in caring for their loved one, whilst recognising and promoting both privacy and dignity at this very difficult time.
“My clinical team are on the frontline for Treetops in people’s homes and supporting staff in nursing homes. I am extremely proud of all my team who continue to work extremely hard. They are our shining stars and I am enormously proud of them.”
The hospice welcomes donations of additional PPE to top up existing supplies as well as donations of new laptops for nurses to assist communications and ensure full access to vital medical information.
We were truly amazed that Treetops could give us so much love and care
The Hospice at Home service was vital for Mike Gregory’s dad, Tony, as he explained:
“My family, Mum, my sister and Dad, all lived together, so when Dad became ill and needed more personal care we were all there to care for him, attend to his needs and look after Mum too.
“But there came a time when my father required care throughout the night – someone to be awake for him – someone to give him pain relief and to be a companion for him during those dark hours. We were truly amazed that Treetops could give us so much love and care.
“My Mum and sister would usually be up in the night so it was wonderfully helpful when the nurse arrived and we could have a few hours of valuable rest.
We opened our arms to their support
“The nurses became very special to us and happily, us to them. They very quickly became family which was lovely in our time of utter need, knowing the inevitable outcome in the near future. We opened our arms to their support.
“The most memorable moment was the night Dad died. The nurse who was with us at that time was full of compassion, warmth and understanding. We couldn’t have wished for a lovelier person to be with us as he passed away.”
The Hospice at Home team are all trained and experienced in caring for people who have palliative care needs. All the care is delivered in accordance with the District Nursing care plan, and the hospice works closely with the patient’s Primary Health Care team.
Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need. However the charity predicts a huge £1.4m loss in income in the coming months, due to the temporary closure of all their charity shops, and postponement or cancellation of many fundraising events.
An Emergency Appeal has been launched and the hospice is asking for donations to ensure they can continue to provide Hospice at Home nursing care throughout the pandemic.