8 Common Hospice Myths
Published: 20 Jul 2018
St Catherine’s Hospice is the area’s local hospice, providing expert care for terminally ill people when and where they need it most. The hospice’s expert teams are on hand to support people in their own homes, at their Day Hospices and on their wards. However, hospice is often a word that people shy away from. Many people imagine a hospice is a place of fear and sadness and that there’s only one reason why an individual would go there. But the above couldn’t be further from the truth. Here, St Catherine’s explores eight common myths about hospices and end of life care, and explain what really goes on behind their doors.
MYTH - ST CATHERINE’S IS FULLY FUNDED BY THE NHS
TRUTH - It’s not! St Catherine’s is a charity and it costs them around £10 million per year to run their free care and support services. Less than a third of the hospice’s funding comes from the NHS, and the rest is raised by wonderful people like you. People raise money for St Catherine’s in a variety of ways including; giving donations, taking part in events, leaving a gift in their will, playing the hospice lottery, or donating or shopping in one of their 16 hospice shops.
MYTH - A HOSPICE IS WHERE YOU GO TO DIE
TRUTH - Whilst the care delivered by St Catherine’s is palliative, and given to people who are terminally ill, not everyone who is cared for is at the end of their life. There are many different reasons why someone might be under the hospice’s care: to make sure their final days are as comfortable as possible, to manage their pain, to give their carer some respite, or to meet other people living with a terminal illness to share their experiences. Hospices are for the living, and everything St Catherine’s does is to make sure that each person has the best possible quality of life, and that those closest to them are also cared for.
Clive has been helped by St Catherine’s following a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma. He said,
“You don't need to be on your last legs to be coming here - far from it! The hospice has been wonderful for future planning and support and the earlier you come here, the better.”
MYTH - HOSPICE IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR A HOSPITAL OR CARE HOME
TRUTH - A hospice provides some similar elements of care to a hospital or care home, but also offers much, much more. Doctors and nurses deliver expert care, but the hospice also has occupational therapists, physiotherapists, Day Hospice staff, complementary therapists, kitchen staff, a Patient and Family Support Team, a fundraising team and support service teams. These teams are all supported by more than 1,000 volunteers, who donate their skills and experience to enhance the care and support that St Catherine’s can offer to local people in the community.
St Catherine’s is often described by patients and their families as a warm, friendly, homely place that couldn’t feel further from a hospital. There are no set visiting hours and there are private and family rooms available where needed. What’s more, all of the care St Catherine’s gives is completely tailored to each patient’s specific needs. This is something Michelle found during her stay at the hospice. She said, “My care is completely tailored to me. I have a laugh with the nurses and even get to have cuddles with the Therapy cat when he comes to visit! In a hospital, you’re just a patient; but in a hospice, you’re a person.”
MYTH - HOSPICE CARE IS ONLY FOR CANCER PATIENTS
TRUTH - Whilst many of St Catherine’s patients do have cancer, the hospice also provides support for patients living with other progressive illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease or heart failure. In fact, last year, 30 per cent of the people St Catherine’s cared for had a diagnosis other than cancer.
MYTH - HOSPICE CARE IS JUST ABOUT HELPING PEOPLE RELIEVE PAIN AND OTHER PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
TRUTH – Whilst this is an important part of the work St Catherine’s does, there are many other aspects to their care. The care the hospice provides is led by each individual and St Catherine’s works with each person to help them achieve the things that matter most to them. This could be helping someone to enjoy a candlelit, favourite meal or a tipple from the hospice’s famous drinks trolley, or offering them emotional, welfare and spiritual support. The team even help arrange celebrations like birthdays or weddings at the hospice, and if they’re able, they encourage people to do something they love with their family and friends, such as visiting a beach, watching the Wimbledon final or enjoying a spot of gardening.
Pam Dray recently celebrated her 75th birthday during her stay a St Catherine’s. She said:“I arrived in the hospice coffee shop to see the room all decorated and a beautiful birthday cake made by hospice staff. As I walked in, I realised my whole family were there too. I just booed! It was absolutely fantastic and I’ll never, ever forget it. It was tremendous, a birthday to remember.”
MYTH - IF I CHOOSE HOSPICE CARE, I HAVE TO LEAVE MY HOME
TRUTH – Not necessarily. Wherever possible, if people want to stay at home, St Catherine’s will support them to do this. In fact, eight in ten people are cared for in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to the hospice’s community nursing team, who provide care across Sussex and Surrey.
MYTH - ONLY THE PERSON WHO IS ILL BENEFITS FROM HOSPICE CARE
TRUTH – Their family and friends do too. St Catherine’s understands a terminal diagnosis doesn’t only affect the patient, so the hospice supports their family and friends too, through counselling, welfare support and respite care during a person’s illness, and bereavement support during and following their bereavement.
Diane’s daughter Lauren was cared for by St Catherine’s and she remembers how the hospice supported her whole family when Lauren’s life came full circle, “The teams treated us with understanding, support and dignity. Although Lauren was their patient they respected that it was a very difficult and emotional time for her family and friends too. As well as nursing care, our family were helped by St Catherine’s Patient and Family Support Team. They helped prepare Lauren’s young daughter when Lauren was becoming less well and gave me bereavement counselling after Lauren passed.”
MYTH – A HOSPICE MUST BE A TERRIBLE, SAD PLACE TO WORK
TRUTH – It’s not at all! It’s a unique environment and one where employees and volunteers are proud to spend their days. It’s rare to walk through St Catherine’s without seeing someone with a smile or hearing laughter, and whilst there are inevitably sad occasions and moments, the good times far outweigh those. The hospice does all they can to make things easier for people and to make sure that they get to enjoy their time together at the hospice as much as they can.
Many staff consider it an honour to share special moments with patients and their family and friends, and are grateful to work in such a supportive environment. Caroline Collins, a nurse at the hospice says, “I’m fortunate to have a fabulous team around me and we support each other. We help each other as we know that, as much as we may wish we could cure people, our care is about improving the quality of a person’s life; however short it may be.”
Last year alone St Catherine’s cared for around 2,000 people in your community. But for every person the hospice helps there are two others they currently can't. With the support of readers like you, St Catherine’s wants to change this and make sure that in the future they can be there for everyone when life comes full circle.
To find out more about the hospice’s work, make a donation, or to volunteer your time please visit: www.stch.org.uk