I recently spent a lovely day alongside our retail tent at FolkEast. I was sharing living stories from our patients and families with people as a way of explaining the difference St Elizabeth Hospice makes to their lives.
Walking around the FolkEast site, I was struck by all the adaptations I could see. The parents who had turned a wheelbarrow into a snugly bed for their toddler to enable her to sleep soundly as they wheeled her around so they could still enjoy the bands, poetry and dance lessons themselves; the man who had turned a sentry-box style shed into ‘The Halfway house’ bar, not fazed by the fact that you could only really fit two people in the space at a time. From these observations I found myself musing on the infinite adaptability of people and how as we enter each of the many different stages in our lives, we learn how to live within them.
One of our post-story discussions involved a hospital chaplain from Leicester who shared her story of just how long it has taken her to come to terms with the loss of her mother who died when she was still a child. It was a time when most people didn’t talk about loss and bereavement – she was told the news fairly bluntly and was expected to ‘keep calm and carry on.’
In her role now, she avoids conversations with children about their bereavements keeping her work focused solely on adults as she has only been able to develop coping mechanisms as an adult, not when a child. This limits what she can do now. So different from the bereavement support offered by our St Elizabeth Hospice therapy team, made up of two counsellors, one of whom is a specialised children’s worker, a social worker and a family practitioner.
I also talked to a lovely, interesting couple from Essex who found themselves tailoring their lives through its various stages to incorporate, within their 40 years of marriage: work-life balance; a difficult health diagnosis, living through this and coming out the other side with a completely different blueprint.
We discussed living life as fully and richly as possible by taking opportunities as they come up and adapting our approaches rather than being a slave to what we have always done.
They were surprised and interested by the extent of what we do here at the hospice, especially the person-centred principles by which we work and the holistic way in which we help patients and families to enhance their lives.
I thought of how a local man, Ian had explained to me recently the ways in which he and his father Ken were supported to adapt to their new circumstances by the hospice community team:
‘When [going up and down the stairs] became unfeasible, we converted the dining room into his bedroom and had an oxygen compressor put in so he could move from room to room.
He migrated downstairs for the next two years.
The help provided by St Elizabeth Hospice, enabled both me and my dad to live as normal a life as possible, right up until the end.’
You see, it’s about adapting and living.