Father and Son [Cat Stevens]

I am sure that most people who work in the hospice movement would say that it is a real priviledge. I certainly do, and I am not even on the “front line”. Hospices provide care for people who have an incurable illness, from the point at which their illness is diagnosed as terminal, to the point at which they die, however long that may be. Hospice care provides for medical, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual needs – it is truly holistic. The care is not just for the patient themselves, but also for their families and friends. And this can and should continue beyond the patient’s death. Hospices place a lot of emphasis on dignity, respect and the wishes of the patient, so that their needs are met.

Sadly, this last week I have been on the other side of the fence. After a very short illness, my Dad passed away at the age of 78. It was a shock for us. He had been under the weather for two or three months, but there was no indication that he was going to die. He had heart failure which deteriorated rapidly. He was admitted to the local general hospital (NOT Wigan), where he stayed until his death, ten days later. Thankfully, my brothers and my wife and I, were at his side when he passed away. He was comfortable and not in any pain, which was a blessing. It was a huge priveledge to be with my Dad as he approached the end of his earthly life, and I am sure that he was reassured by having his family around him.

But is wasn’t all plain sailing. He was on a medical ward and not in a hospice. Oh, how I wish that he could have been in a hospice. Dad was told that his heart failure was just like cancer, at which point the consultant just left him. My brother was then immediately asked to leave the ward, because it was dinner time and visitors weren’t allowed to stay – it was a protected time. A day later, Dad was told that he was dying and that he probably only had a few days to live. He was told this when there were no family present to be with him, which was obviously very upsetting. Then there were a couple of nurses moaning about their work patterns over Christmas whilst taking dad’s blood pressure, failing to notice that it was hurting him. And we didn’t really feel supported as we walked with Dad in his last days. There were some examples of excellent care, where a member of staff spent that little bit of extra time with Dad or us, or brought us a cup of tea in the middle of the night, just as we were struggling to stay awake. In these moments it felt like we were truly being cared for.

I’m not saying these things to slag off the NHS, although I am going to write to the hospital concerned. The NHS generally does a great job. The reason I am writing about my experiences is partly cathartic (to express my thoughts and feelings), partly to celebrate what a great job hospices do, but also to express my wish that the care that hospices provide can be transferred to NHS wards a bit more. It would be wonderful if people dying in hospital, and their families, could be treated with a little bit more respect and dignity.

My Dad was a good man. He was hard working and at work always treated everyone equally and with respect. He had a great sense of humour and had loads of friends. One of his passions was gardening. His garden was always very neat and tidy, and packed with flowers. His favourites were roses and dahlias. His love of gardening rubbed off on me. So it is thanks to him that I am working as The Hospice Gardener. (Incidentally, my Mum, who has also passed away, was a big supporter of the hospice movement). Sadly Dad never got up to Wigan to see the hospice gardens, but I am sure that he would have been impressed and very proud. I’m going to miss you Dad… Rest In Peace. X

12 thoughts on “Father and Son [Cat Stevens]

  1. Thanks for sharing your very moving story and I am sorry that your father was unable to find peace and support in a Hospice. People deserve dignity and compassion on their final journey a gift that the Hospice movement give. We had a similar experience when my brother was dying, he was on a general ward in his final hours so privacy went out of the window, thankfully a member of the family was a sister in the hospital and had him transferred into a single bedded room where we stayed (14 of us) with him as he left on his journey.

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  2. Please accept my condolences on the death of your father. Unfortunately I think the NHS focuses on ‘ticking boxes’ to meet targets to the detriment of the personal care of patients. All too often, as you say, nurses can be heard complaining, they could learn a lot by shadowing Hospice nurses in their daily care and support of patients and families. I owe a lot to the Hospice team who supported me while nursing my husband at home until he made that final journey.

    Your father had a lot to be proud of, a son who is, with the aid of volunteers, maintaining a beautiful hospice garden for people to enjoy in their last days of life before they move to the ‘heavenly garden of peace.’

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  3. That’s a deeply moving, poignant and important message Jim. Our condolences. I’m sure you will find many ways to treasure and remember your Dad lovingly… in the garden, as elsewhere.
    Love John and Hil et al @ the Shewsy.

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  4. That was a very lovely and moving Hospice Gardner piece Jim. It was very brave of you to share your so recent story. You know you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Much love xx

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  5. Thanks Jim for sharing this moving peice. Love and prayers to you all x This did make me stop and reflect on my own approach and care given in very sensitive times like this, as you know I’m a nurse myself. Like yourself I’ve also been on the other side of the fence and wanted to make a difference in someone’s life. Sadly Huge pressures stop us from doing simple things, which do get to you on a day to day basis when working for the NHS. Thanks again for sharing this and making me reflect.

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    • Thank you Karen. I’d love to chat more it about when I next see you. I’m sure that you already do many of the things that I’d like to see happen. It’s just that some of the nurses didn’t seem to really care, which is a problem! Others were good though. X

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