“There are so many giggles and laughs at Zest. Every time you go to work, you have the chance to brighten someone’s day and have fun with the brilliant young adults who use its services,” explained Kim Morton, who works as a registered nurse at Zest.
“It’s really rewarding and a very unique service. The young adults’ medical needs are supported but most importantly they have the opportunity to socialise with their friends, like anyone would, and to understand there are lots of people with similar needs to them, within their community.”
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.
Having worked at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH), as a palliative care nurse for more than a decade, Kim was very aware of the difficulties many young people and their families experienced when transitioning from children’s hospices to adult services and understood how Zest worked to aid this transition.
“Zest had been on my radar for a long time and was something I was always keen to join. While training I did my independent study on the transition from child to adult care and learnt how often young adults lose support they need,” she said.
“Immediately Zest caught my eye as it fills this service gap and helps ensure that reaching adulthood, doesn’t typically leave support behind. Since joining the Zest team, in 2021, it’s been great to see so many familiar faces both in staff and the families we support.
“A number of the young adults I first met when they were five-years-old but now support them at Zest now they are 20, which helps aid familiarity and trust for the step from child to adult services.”
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.
Through her role, Kim predominantly works for Short Breaks and X-Change evenings. This sees Kim ensuring all care plans and medicine charts are in place and signed before the games, entertainment and other fun activities can be arranged for the young adults to enjoy.
Kim said: “It’s full of hustle and bustle and they are all up and ready to enjoy themselves. Whether that is doing sensory activities, choosing music to listen to, playing inclusive sports, enjoying a takeaway meal or planting plants, there is always so much going on and each day at Zest brings something new for the young adults and staff alike.
“We have a great team spirit and share the ultimate aim of wanting all the young adults to be comfortable and to be able to do whatever they want to that day. It’s very rewarding to see the benefits Zest can help bring for young adults and their families.
“One young man, who attends Zest, has a diary where he keeps a track of what he has done that day and he reads it back to himself in his own room to reminisce and share with others later. To know our team has allowed him and the other young adults to have this independence, is so very special and motivates me every day.”
Born and bred in Ipswich, Kim enjoys her free time with her husband, two daughters and their family cat, as well as horse riding and in the past she has even taken part in daredevil activities, including skydives.
Similar to many in the local area, she too has a connection to St Elizabeth Hospice after her dad received care from the independent Suffolk charity.
Kim added: “Being a part of Zest and St Elizabeth Hospice is like being a part of one big family. Alongside the local community we work together to provide care to those in the community who need our support.
“Through continued community support we have been able to provide special equipment, wireless sound beams, take the young adults on days out and most importantly bring smiles to their faces.”
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest.