Claire Trumper tells us how St Michael’s Hospice helped turn one of the hardest experiences of her family’s lives into a time filled with cherished memories.

‘We didn’t think it would be possible for our 83-year-old mum, Elsie, to spend her final days at home surrounded by love and laughter. But thanks to the care and compassion of the Hospice at Home team, that’s exactly what happened.
I’m not writing this because our story is unique, but because it is not. So many families in Herefordshire and beyond benefit from the Hospice at Home service, and the wider support St Michael’s provides. Like many others, Mum felt she wasn’t sick enough to be using Hospice services, and continued to believe there were many people ahead of her in the queue. Mum suffered from complex heart failure and her biggest challenge was pain relief.

‘Mum ended up in hospital with severe breathlessness and oedema. Plans started to be made within the hospital system to discharge Mum but she had to jump through a number of hoops to be able to come home. Having previously been referred to St Michael’s Medical Director Tony Blower we knew about the Hospice advice line and one morning, in desperation, I rang it and was straight away given clear instructions about how to get mum home.
Once home, Hospice nurses took us into a different place where we could all take a deep breath and calmly face the future together.

‘Within a week, Mum had been assessed as close to end of life and Hospice at Home took on all of mum’s daily visits. Home quickly became a place of love and laughter again. As a neighbour remarked one afternoon as the team arrived, ’It’s as though love has just walked into the room’. All of this was carried out against a background of talking and laughing, taking time to listen to Mum and understand her concerns and worries.

‘We will never forget how the Hospice at Home team helped us through those last few days and hours. One of our lasting memories was being encouraged to dip a sponge into a glass of sherry and wipe Mums lips with it – I swear she smiled! On one occasion, we reluctantly called the Hospice advice line at night and within an hour the Hospice nurses visited to help with medication, spending time with us, calming the situation down and taking away the fear. Throughout this time, we never actually mentioned dying and no-one talked about death although there were plenty of opportunities given to Mum to do so.

‘The only thing Mum wanted in those final days was to see her grandchildren home from Australia and to make them roast beef and crumble. Incredibly, on one visit just days before Mum died, one of the team from the Hospice actually washed Mum’s hair ready for her boys coming home. Strangely, Mum’s pain had appeared to lessen during her time at home so when on the Saturday morning she woke up in pain, we knew we were in trouble. From the moment the Hospice at Home team took over, we were totally supported, as they knew that Mum was dying and had very little time left.

‘A senior nurse remained with us for several hours as family gathered. The grandchildren arrived at around midnight on Saturday and she knew they were there. She died surrounded by family and in her own home. What an amazing privilege.
‘There is no fine way to go but we believe that we were able to help Mum have the best of every opportunity in her last few days and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the amazing Hospice at Home team. I am so grateful to all of you for reading this. Without fundraisers like you who donate, play the Lottery, buy an item in the Hospice shops or leave gifts to St Michael’s in their wills, my Mum and family wouldn’t have received the excellent care we did.’