Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, explains the importance of compassion in hospice care.
A Bengali pensioner diagnosed with dementia, who is supported by St Joseph’s Hospice in London, has not been able to open his hands for several months.
A young hospice volunteer visits him in his home, sitting with him patiently and massaging his hands, until one day to his astonishment and delight he is able to extend each one of his fingers.
The man, who speaks little English, looks at her in wonder and says just one word with heartfelt gratitude – “Thank you”.
His wife and the volunteer both burst out crying with joy.
A young woman, whose father has cancer, wants to get married. His local hospice, the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, arranges the wedding in just one week, to be sure that her father is able to be there and give her away.
Her father is wheeled to the wedding in his bed. There are tears and smiles during the moving ceremony, but the expressions of joy on their faces in the wedding photos say it all.
These are just two of the different ways that hospice care touches people’s lives.
“The hospice movement is one of the UK's great success stories. It is a prime example of the passion-inspired vision and innovation so often found in the charity sector.”Tracey Bleakley
Around 360,000 terminally ill people and their families receive hospice care each year.
Hospice care focuses on what matters most to people. It supports them to live as fully as possible, through all stages of their condition. It also helps them to fulfil their final wishes.
Compassion is the hallmark of hospice care, reflected in its holistic, highly personalised approach towards supporting the different needs of each individual.
It is also a form of care that is rather special in our modern, time-pressured age; especially given the funding problems and staff shortages in the NHS, which often contribute to inadequate end of life care in hospitals.
Modern hospice care developed in the late 1960s, in direct response to a deficit in care for dying people in the NHS.
It changed forever the way that people with life-limiting conditions are supported.
Now, more than 50 years on, the UK leads the world in end of life care, largely thanks to its thriving hospice care sector.
Around one in three people will be touched by hospice care at some point in their lives.
Hospices provide high quality care and yet receive only around a third of their funding from the NHS. They have to raise the rest through fundraising and rely heavily on the generosity of their local communities.
Hospice care supports many people to have a peaceful and dignified death in a hospice or in their own home, which most people would prefer to a hospital.
Hospices also work closely with hospitals and other care providers to share their expertise and improve the quality of palliative care everywhere.
As one MP noted in a recent Parliamentary debate, commenting on the hospice sector as a model for other providers and its work with the NHS to transform end of life care: “This is Britain at its best”.
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