Andy Brereton talks about his role as a Specialist Practitioner in the Hospice Community Team and his involvement with Jason and his family while they were cared for by the Hospice.
“My role is within the Hospice Community Team, where I am a Specialist Practitioner in Palliative Care. That means that I visit patients at home, and I usually have between 30 and 40 patients on my caseload. Most of our hospice care is actually delivered at home, rather than on our inpatient unit.
Jason was the youngest patient I’ve cared for in my time at St Wilfrid’s. Jason was a very strong young man, with a high pain threshold and a high tolerance to medication. He was having high doses of medication to manage his symptoms. Jo, Jason’s wife, had a brilliant relationship with our community nurses, and we did actually use a local policy which allows us to train family members to give medications. We trained Jo to give one-off doses if Jason needed pain relief at night, which she was amazing at, as they were a young couple who had only just got married. I was always pleased to support them both, even when Odin the puppy wanted to get involved with my visits!
Our role is to respond to the patient where they are at that time, and the loved ones and family that surround them. The patient’s life experience and attitude to life is a huge determiner in the way they approach their disease. Someone like Jason will approach it as a battle. The word warrior was used at least three times during his funeral, and it describes how he approached his life.
Our assessment starts the moment we put the handbrake on and get out of the car. We never really know how a patient will be when we are knocking on the door. Being diagnosed with a life limiting or terminal illness doesn’t change the way that families interact, or stop daily life, it can just put more pressure on. We also have lots of garden gate moments, when someone from the family or the patient themselves follows us out to the car to ask us some more questions or to have a private chat.
That’s why I love my job. Each patient and their situation is different. It’s all about what that patient needs at that time.
If I could tell everyone in our community about hospice care, I would smash the preconception that it is just a building that you go to to die. I always describe our hospice services as a three-legged stool: the inpatient unit and Ward Team is there for symptom control and supporting people at end of life, the Hospice Community Team deliver around 90% of our care in people’s homes, and the Living Well centre is there to deliver rehabilitation, physio and therapies.
I used to work in the NHS and I wanted to be able to spend more time with patients, adapting to exactly what they need. Our organisation is part-funded by a small NHS grant but the vast majority comes from charitable donations from our community. This means we are really closely linked to what our community need and want.
Times are tight for most people right now, and if you’ve been able to make a donation to support families like Jason’s this Christmas, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. If you are considering making a donation this season, again thank you for your kindness and generosity.
The money is so well used delivering patient care to local people who need hospice services. I see the difference our care makes every day.
Your support allows us to be there for families at what could be one of the worst times. We are ready to support them with expert care they need, be it on Christmas Day or any day of the year.”
Read Jason’s Story or make a donation this Christmas below.