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.
One person who uses Zest’s services is Bethany Woods, from Ipswich in Suffolk.
“Zest makes a very big difference to my life, as I get to meet up with young adults in similar situations to me and have plenty of fun, all with the appropriate care and support close at hand if I need it, allowing me to be as independent as possible,” the 19-year-old explained.
“I get to attend Short Breaks, X-Change nights, regular clinical reviews, monthly Saturday whole family drop in sessions, transition co-ordination support, plus, my Dad attends the parent support group.
“Also, I do all sorts of activities such as arts and crafts and different accessible sports. What I enjoy most is playing boccia, as I get to join a team and have a friendly competition with my friends.”
Living with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy Merosin Negative, Bethany was previously cared for by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH).
In 2015, aged thirteen-years-old, Bethany met Helen Finlinson, Zest Young Adult Care and Transition Lead, who told her about Zest and asked if she would like to start attending Zest activities.
Bethany said: “When I first realised I’d be leaving EACH, I felt slightly upset, since I met a lot of people at EACH and they had practically became a second family to me.
“However, Zest made transitioning to adult services less upsetting, as it allowed me to meet new staff and other young adults, whilst still having familiar faces, like Catherine Markham and Helen Finlinson; it never felt like a completely new or different environment to what I was used to.”
As well as giving Bethany lots of opportunities to be independent and socialise away from home, Bethany and her dad, Kevin, attend parent support groups and have access to St Elizabeth Hospice’s facilities for regular clinical support and reviews.
“Zest means just as much to my dad as they do to me,” explained Bethany.
“He loves taking me to their events, like X-Change nights, knowing I’ll have plenty of fun without needing him in the room, giving me the independence I don’t always get.
“It is really important for people to continue fundraising and supporting charity services such as Zest, because they really do make a difference to lives of young adults. Being a young adult in general can be difficult, but if you add the factor of having a life-limiting condition then it becomes even more challenging.
“To have all these different activities at Zest to attend and to be a part of with other young adults, who share similar experiences, it suddenly becomes a lot less difficult.
“For anyone not aware of Zest, I would encourage them to get in contact. This service has made such a positive impact on my life and I have no doubt it would for others too. Zest has given me opportunities to make new friends with people going through similar situations to me, but best of all Zest has helped me gain my independence and increase my confidence.”
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest.