Established by St Elizabeth Hospice in 2015, Zest is a scheme which sees the independent Suffolk charity work closely with children’s hospices to ensure young adults have a smooth transition into adult care.
Supporting young adults aged 14 and upwards with progressive and life-limiting illnesses, Zest ensures all the young people, under its care, receive specialist support, tailored treatment and services needed to be able to enjoy life to the full.
From its industry unique Short Breaks, which allows young people to take time out from their daily routine, through to its parent support group and monthly X-Change evening social group for patients, Zest enables young adults with challenging conditions to fulfil their aspirations. Whether this is to manage symptoms, access opportunities in the community or reduce loneliness by enabling them to have fun with friends.
Behind the continued success and evolution of Zest are the staff, such as Catherine Markham, who are passionate about helping young adults live their lives to the full.
Having trained and worked in hospitals, Catherine Markham joined East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH) in 1999, motivated by the ambition to give as much time to patients and families as she felt they needed.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my work in the hospital after qualifying as a nurse, but became frustrated as I was not always able to give the time to patients and families that I wanted to,” explains Catherine.
“Working in a hospice, means you have time to get to know patients and families, especially in young adult care, where young people are living with complex health needs. This means I can get to know what works best for them, developing an understanding of how to support them to achieve their goals.”
Born and raised in Bury St Edmunds, Catherine moved to the Ipswich area in 2006 with her husband and two sons, while still working for EACH. During her 19 years at EACH, she became aware of the difficulties many young people and their families experienced when transitioning from children’s hospices to adult services.
In her final six years at EACH, Catherine worked closely with St Elizabeth Hospice, and its Zest programme, to adapt and make this transition as comfortable and smooth as possible for patients and their families.
“When you work with people who, despite illness and disability, live life to the full and are willing to try new things, it can only inspire you to do the best you can,” she said.
“Seeing St Elizabeth Hospice’s ground-breaking work close up, only encouraged me to help shape this transition scheme and I was delighted to be able to join the Zest team.
“Every day is different, which is what makes my job so rewarding. A day can involve meeting with young people and families to review or discuss changes in health or care needs, then liaising with other professionals to ensure these needs are being met. The diversity to the role is brilliant but at the heart of our work is ensuring the best quality of life for the young adults.”
As an independent charity, St Elizabeth Hospice and Zest, raise 75% of the funds needed to maintain the provision of their services via revenue streams such as fundraising events and its retail arm. The impact of COVID-19 and government restrictions, regarding social distancing, has severely hampered these vital income channels but the Zest services are still needed more now than ever.
Catherine added: “Zest allows young people to set goals and be supported to meet these goals. It offers them a taste of independence, opportunities to socialise and try new things like any young person would want to do.
“The extra stresses and responsibilities put on families by COVID-19 has been hard and that is why it is so important we are able to provide our services so young people and their families can have some respite.
“We are always so grateful for any funds or donations we receive from the community, as every amount makes a world of difference.
“To deliver the service, we need to ensure that staff have the training and skills to meet the needs of this unique group of young people and their families. We rely on the generosity of the local people to enable us to continue developing Zest and ensure we provide high levels of care in a relaxed and friendly environment.”
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest.