We are delighted that BRM Solicitors in Chesterfield are supporting us once again with a free will writing month in June.

Suggested donation are:

  • For a single will £75 – funding five hours of Hospice at Home care
  • Mirror will £150 – to pay for a night-sit in the comfort of a patient’s home

Call the team on 01246 555111 to make an appointment ahead of next month.

There’s no obligation to include Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust in your will and you don’t need to let us know your intentions. Your will is a private matter between you and your solicitor.

When you consider writing a will, your loved ones will of course be your top priority, but many people also wish to leave a gift (also known as a legacy) to a cause or charity that means a lot to them.

If you decide to remember Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust in your will, you’ll be helping to support local families facing life-limiting illness in the future. Leaving a gift is easy and anyone can do it. Whether it’s a sum of money, a specific item or a share of your property, your gift means you’ll always be with us, helping people in your community.

Remember someone special as part of our Sunflower Memories month. 

Throughout June, you can dedicate a flower in memory of someone special, and make a donation to support local hospice care and services.

For a suggested minimum donation of £10, a sunflower in the virtual hospice garden will be dedicated to your loved one, and you’ll receive your very own sunflower plaque bearing your relative or friend’s name, to plant in your garden at home.

All the money raised during the month-long commemorations will go towards providing free palliative and end of life care to local patients.

Dedicate a sunflower in memory of someone you love.

Steven (left) with grandma Heather, brother, Shaun and mum, Sue

This Sunflower Memories Month, Steven Searle from Buxton is remembering his beloved Grandma, Heather.

Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service provided care and support to Heather Buxton – who had kidney failure and cancer – earlier this year when she was discharged from hospital. Heather died in February, in the comfort of her own home in Chinley, with her family beside her.

Her grandson, Steven, explains: ‘Grandma had always been in good health. She was 81-years-old and except for a few issues and sometimes feeling unwell, she was generally fit and healthy. However, in November 2020, she collapsed in the bathroom at home and, my Grandad, Les called and asked me to help. Grandma was taken into hospital.

‘The next morning at about 5am, I received another call from my Grandad as the hospital had rung and said that sadly Grandma was dying. Thankfully, though, Grandma underwent a procedure to insert a tube into her side, to help support her kidney function. This was a success and Grandma’s recovery went well.

Steven’s grandparents Les and Heather with daughter, Sue

‘After spending nine weeks in hospital, Grandma was allowed home in early January and this is where the assistance from Blythe House started. Foday Kamara, the minister at my Grandparent’s church and a volunteer at a hospice, first suggested that Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service would be able to help.

‘Grandma had support from healthcare assistants (HCAs) during the morning and evening, helping with bathing and personal care, amongst other tasks. The healthcare assistants also provided overnight sits so that my Grandad and my Mum, who had moved into her parents’ home to help care for Grandma, could get a proper night’s sleep.

‘It wasn’t just the personal care that the HCAs were brilliant at. They provided so much advice and support around pain management and controls so that we could make sure Grandma was as comfortable as possible. It is a very intimidating thing having to look after someone who is so poorly, but they were on hand to answer questions and could point us in the direction of whom we would need to speak to about different aspects of Grandma’s care. The personal relationships that they struck up with not just Grandma, but the whole family, were equally brilliant.

‘The day before she died, Grandma was very distressed and screaming in pain. The HCA, Anna, stayed much longer after her shift ended, to help Grandma to feel safe and as comfortable as possible before we were able to arrange for some more medication.

‘Later that night, Hayley, another HCA who came for the night sit, made my Mum aware that sadly Grandma was dying. Mum was able to be there and hold her hand until the very end. Grandma died peacefully just after midnight on 19th February.

‘It was so important for my Grandma to be at home. After spending nine weeks in hospital, during the coronavirus pandemic, she was sometimes very emotional and distressed. It meant everything to be able to get Grandma home and to have the care in place from Blythe House, because that is where she wanted to be. It meant everything to me and my family to have her safe at home; nobody wants to think about their loved one dying in an isolated environment on their own.

‘As a family, without Blythe House, we wouldn’t have coped. We were a family in need, and although the whole situation was traumatic, to see Grandma so poorly, it was made one hundred times better by the Hospice at Home service and its amazing HCAs.

‘I am planting a sunflower this June in memory of my Grandma, and to support Blythe House to raise as much income as possible for this vital service.’

Dedicate a sunflower today to remember your loved one.

‘Arranging Mum’s funeral, I knew exactly what she wanted; I had no regrets that I’d done or chosen anything wrong, and I knew I’d done her justice.’

Dying Matters week aims to raise awareness of opening up the conversation between families and friends about death, dying and bereavement. One way to do this is to discuss your funeral plans so that your loved ones know what you’d like to happen, and can respect your wishes.

It was widely reported earlier this year that Prince Philip had planned his own funeral – including making his final journey in a Land Rover Defender, and personally choosing the military medals and decorations that he wanted to be displayed.

Dying Matters explained: ‘By taking the initiative and setting out what you want now, you can get on with living your life, knowing that when the time comes your loved ones will know what you wanted and be spared from having to make difficult decisions.’

Cathy Price’s mum, Janet sought advice and support from Blythe House after she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in September 2020. Nurses from the hospice called Janet weekly to chat about how she was doing. Janet also took part in the weekly online Community Hub support group meetings alongside other local people diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. Janet very sadly died in March 2021 after the cancer had spread to her lungs.

Cathy, who’s from Buxton, explained: ‘Mum started to feel differently around Christmastime 2019. She didn’t ever normally go to the doctors or seek advice, but she knew deep down something was wrong. Doctors initially thought it was reflux and put her on different medications that did not help. She was finally referred to the hospital for a gastroscopy – it was the day that the first national lockdown was officially announced in March 2020 – and unfortunately, because there was no mention in her medical notes of a lump in her throat, the procedure was cancelled.

‘Lockdown of course stalled everything and nothing happened for months. Mum finally got another appointment to see a doctor. At this point, she wasn’t eating properly and couldn’t swallow solids; she was living off yoghurts and ice cream. Mum and I called 111 and the advisor suggested that Mum went to hospital. It was here, finally, in September, that she was diagnosed with cancer of the throat.

‘Mum underwent radio and chemotherapy at The Christie, so there was a lot of toing and froing between home and hospital every day. She finished her treatment on the 15th December and was able to spend Christmas at home. Afterwards, she became really poorly again, and she was transferred to hospital.

‘Mum enjoyed hearing from staff at Blythe House every week; it gave her someone different to talk to about her prognosis, worries and concerns. Living on her own (though I was in her support bubble throughout the lockdowns), it was nice for Mum to be able to chat to someone different who could provide support and give advice. The Zoom meetings with other local patients definitely had a positive effect on her mood, and she’d relay stories from different participants.

‘When she found out that the cancer had spread to her lungs, there was an opportunity for her to have a tube inserted to help drain liquid. Unfortunately, her lungs were filling that quickly that doctors weren’t able to undertake the procedure the first time round. After this, Mum declined the second chance to try inserting the tube, and so a plan was put in place for end of life care.

‘Despite Covid-19, because Mum was so poorly, I was able to go and see her in hospital. I spent every day with her and we talked so much. One of the things we talked about was her funeral. She asked me to get everyone a drink on her, and she said she wanted everyone to wear bright colours and silly hats! She asked me “talk me through the day then, what’s going to happen?”

‘Mum was transferred to Ashgate Hospicecare in Chesterfield on 1st March 2021; she only spent six hours there before she sadly died.

‘Mum had already paid for her funeral so that wasn’t an issue but I had to think about how to arrange the proceedings. I knew it would be hard to get everyone a drink, because we weren’t allowed a wake or a celebration – only 30 people were allowed to attend her funeral! We did have a web cam set up so that other people could attend from afar – including my sister who lives in America, and my best friend in Australia.

‘One night whilst I was on FaceTime to my sister, we were chatting about arranging the funeral and fulfilling all of Mum’s wishes. We came up with the idea of giving out goodie bags. There and then, we ordered brightly coloured bags off the internet – Mum did not want anything dull! In them, we put a mini bottle of prosecco, some rosé lemonade or a coloured beer; a candle; a party blower and an animal hat; a butterfly decoration as Mum loved butterflies; and a gift tag. My children, Milly and Leo, and I, also made heart-shaped cheese and ham sandwiches, and we put a sausage roll in each bag. Arranging the funeral to respect Mum’s wishes gave me something to focus on and kept me busy in the two weeks following her death; the planning kept me going.

‘When the funeral was over, the kids and I returned home and the mood was a bit flat. It was a strange feeling, and I thought about getting started on making some tea! Just then, my phone pinged, and it was photograph of my friend wearing her party hat and holding up a glass to toast Mum. The next minute, another photo came through, and they kept on coming through the night. The kids and I took our own photo and I sent it around family and friends. It was so lovely as it brought us all together without actually being together physically.

‘Now that I know what’s involved in planning a funeral and expressing your wishes, it is definitely something I’d do with my loved ones. I felt proud to arrange Mum’s funeral because I knew exactly what she wanted; I had no regrets that I’d done or chosen anything wrong, and I knew I’d done her justice.’

To help you to think about your funeral wishes, Dying Matters and the National Association of Funeral Directors have produced a simple form, which lets you create a personal funeral plan that reflects you as an individual. Download it now

We are looking forward to commemorating Dying Matters Awareness Week from Monday (10th May), to help open up the conversation around death, dying and bereavement.

Dying Matters explains: ‘This year, the week will focus on the importance of being in a good place to die.

‘There is no right or wrong place to die; it will be different for everyone. But it is important for families to think about it, to talk about it and to plan for it.

‘At Dying Matters, we want people of all ages to be in a good place when they die – physically, emotionally and with the right care in place. Getting there means having some important conversations and taking some careful decisions.’

In our hospice reception area, we have a ‘What matters to me’ board, where we’re inviting patients and visitors to write down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for what matters to them at the end of their lives.

Some suggestions include:

  • Where would you like to die?
  • How would you spend your last day in this world?
  • How would you talk about death with your children?
  • What does your funeral look like?
  • How would you like your body to be dressed?
  • What do you want your coffin to be like?
  • What music you would like to play at your funeral?
  • Where would you like to visit before you die?
  • Where would you like to be when you die?
  • Many women these days have a ‘birth plan’. But what would be in your ‘death plan’ and when would you start writing it?
  • How would you like to be remembered?

If you’re not heading to visit the hospice next week, we’ve set up a digital board, so you can share your ideas online. To do so, just follow this link and double click anywhere on screen to write your own anonymous comment: What matters to me

To commemorate Dying Matters awareness week (10-16th May 2021),  Rachel Leech, children and young people’s counsellor (left) and Lorna Barrett, family support worker (right), have written a blog on how to talk to children about death, dying and bereavement.

So often, the first question asked by our patients and families when they’re diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or they are nearing the end of their life is – “What do well tell the children”? Followed by a series of thoughts which include:

  • I don’t want them to worry
  • They shouldn’t have to hear this
  • They are too young to understand
  • I can’t my head around this, how can they?
  • I want to protect my children and their innocence
  • I don’t want to hurt them or make things worse

There is a natural, fear-based need to protect children and young people from upset. Dying Matters encourages us all to talk about death. That conversation includes children and young people who are often naturally inquisitive about life and death.

Lorna explained: ‘A recent visit to the cemetery with my five-year old grandson to a family grave provoked the discussion about my own death in which he concluded: “You can’t die because there isn’t enough space for more words on that headstone.”

‘Comical, BUT the important thing was the conversation about death and dying.

‘In my own childhood, I experienced the sudden and tragic death of a much-loved older brother. Aged ten, my parents and the many protective, loving adults around me thought is best to NOT tell me of the circumstances surrounding his death and I was not aware of his funeral taking place. Nor was there discussion about his loss for many, many years into my adult life.

‘What I needed was the truth, to be included, to contribute to the shared grief and loss. The word DEAD not to be used in place of the whispers and euphemisms of the adults around me.’

We need to talk to the children – knowing what is going on can reduce anxiety

  • It gives children and young people permission to talk, ask questions, say how they feel and talk openly to you
  •  It makes sense of the tears and the upset around them
  •  It can help them cope better with difficult situations in life

The effects of not talking:

  • Can leave children and young people frightened and confused
  • Alone with their worries with no one to talk to
  • Imagining something worse than the reality
  • Misunderstanding and misinformation can lead to a lack of trust

Children are more able to deal with stressful situations when they are given the truth and support to deal with it. Some things that can help with talking and help to build resilience:

Create a worry jar/box – Family members draw or write their worries, questions, and fears, put them in the jar/box and open them together. You can explore together if they are shared worries, if you have answers to questions, or if you don’t know. It’s OK to not know something. It’s good to share your own worries (in an age appropriate way) in the jar/box. This models to children healthy open discussions and shared emotions.

Create a soothe box or emotional first aid kit – You can do this collectively as a family. You may put pictures in the box, blankets, messages and notes. Inspiring comments. Ideas to motivate or soothe. Fidget toys, tactile objects. Each family member may have their own soothe box that way you can explore and celebrate everyone’s own individual soothing/emotional first aid needs.

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine – This is a fantastic interactive book created by Winston’s wish all about capturing memories and thoughts when someone special has died. Children tend to puddle jump with grief and difficulties. One moment being deep in the puddle of upset and worry and the next jumping out and playing happily. View online here.

Don’t always rely on words with children – Their brains are still developing and their understanding of illness and death may be very different to yours. I often use more creative ways to explore emotions and thoughts such as if your thought or feeling was a colour what would it be? What texture would it be? Where does it live in your body? Can you doodle/draw it? What colour/texture do you need when this is around? For more information on children’s understanding of death you can visit Child bereavement UK.

Some fantastic books:

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by  by Virginia Ironside – a great book for any age showing how it’s good to share worries. See here.
  • Starving the Anxiety Gremlin by Kate Collins-Donnelly – a book that I return to again and again for children and young people to help with anxiety. They have different books for different ages. I like the 5-9 age book for simple exercises and explanations. See here.
  • Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie – a book suitable for young children introducing lifespans and death without any religious connotations. I had this book on my children’s book shelves from when they were very young. See here.
  • The Secret C by Julie A. Stokes – a book for children and young people about cancer that is straight talking and easy to understand. See here.
  • Sad Isn’t Bad, a good-grief book by Michaelene Mundy – see here.

Let’s get this conversation started!

People across the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales who are looking to give something back to their community and support a local charity, are invited to find out more about rewarding opportunities to volunteer in hospice shops.

We are recruiting volunteers to support their shops in Bakewell, Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith, New Mills and Whaley Bridge.

The retail outlets are responsible for bringing in over a quarter of the money needed every year to provide free palliative and end of life care to local patients.

On some days, the shops are not able to open or have to close early due to a limited number of volunteers.

Volunteers at the shops help with a range of tasks including sorting donations, displaying items for sale, pricing stock, managing tills and money, and supporting customers.

Alex (right), with mum, Brenda (middle) and auntie, Hilary (left) who are hospice retail volunteers

Alex Clark from Buxton volunteers at the hospice shop in her hometown every week. She said: ‘It was back in 2011 when my mum, Brenda noticed that Blythe House’s shop was closed on Wednesdays because unfortunately the team just didn’t have enough volunteer capacity to be able to open it.

‘I had recently been made redundant and mum said to me: “We could do that!” so we got in touch with Blythe House, and offered our support.

‘Volunteering for Blythe House is really good fun and sociable, everyone is so friendly. You can see the results here and you really know that you’re doing something to help. I know several people who’ve benefitted directly from Blythe House; nobody wants to have to access the services here but knowing they are there if they are needed is very comforting and they make a huge difference to so many local people.’

Victoria Wild, Community Volunteer programme manager at the hospice, commented: ‘Without our volunteers, Blythe House and Helen’s Trust simply could not function. Our team of over 250 volunteers collectively donate approximately 590 hours of their time to us each week. They play an integral and vital role, and their support means that we can spend the maximum amount of money directly on care for our patients and their families. We are so grateful for the time and commitment they give.’

Find out more about becoming a retail volunteer for Blythe House and Helen’s Trust, and apply online.

We have opened the doors to our brand new shop in Bakewell.

Staff and volunteers from Helen’s Trust, in partnership with Blythe House Hospicecare, cut the ribbon at the new retail outlet on Matlock Street today [Monday 12th April].

The shop stocks a wide range of items including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; homeware; books and CDs.

Money raised in store will go towards providing free palliative and end of life hospice care in the comfort of patient’s homes across the Derbyshire Dales and North East Derbyshire.

Covid-safe celebrations were well underway as excited volunteers and local customers showed their support, on the day that non-essential retail outlets could re-open following easing of England’s lockdown restrictions.

The shop is the newest addition to Blythe House’s other retail outlets, in Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith, New Mills and Whaley Bridge.

The popular high street stores are responsible for bringing in over a quarter of the money needed for the charity to provide free care and services to local patients and families.

Tim Mourne, chairman, and Dr Louise Jordan, deputy chair, of the charity’s board of trustees cut the ribbon to officially open the shop this morning.

Dr Jordan, who is a GP at Baslow Health Centre, said: ‘As a founding trustee of Helen’s Trust, I am delighted to see the charity continue to grow from strength to strength. This year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary, and we’re supporting more people across our local communities than ever before. The new shop will help us to continue achieving and smashing our goals in the future; supporting hundreds of local patients who wish to stay in the comfort of their own home at the end of their lives.’

Tim added: ‘I am so pleased to officially open the new Helen’s Trust shop alongside Dr Jordan. Since the partnership between Blythe House and Helen’s Trust began last year, we have doubled our Hospice at Home clinical output in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The shop opening is the latest achievement of our successful charity merger, and we know that our loyal, local supporters will be on hand to back it, by volunteering, donating or shopping here, to support local hospice care now and in the future.’

Sincere thanks go to Bloomers of Bakewell for donating individually wrapped and Covid-safe treats for the special occasion.

Find out more about Blythe House and Helen’s Trust shops including opening times.

Learn more about volunteering at the new Bakewell shop, or any of Blythe House’s other High Peak stores.

We are celebrating the fifth anniversary of a hugely successful service that ensures local patients can die in the comfort of their own home, if that is their wish.

Staff and volunteers at the launch party in 2016

Since its inception in 2016, Blythe House Hospicecare’s Hospice at Home service has supported over 880 patients, and provided more than 57,200 hours of palliative and end of life care. The service’s official anniversary is Sunday 11th April 2021.

Hospice at Home provides care to patients who are within their last 12 months of life, across the High Peak and Hope Valley. Since its partnership with Helen’s Trust began in September 2020, support now extends to cover the Derbyshire Dales and North East Derbyshire.

During the past year alone, the 24/7 service has enabled over 190 local patients to stay safe at home, when they might otherwise have been admitted to hospital, where no visitors have been allowed.

Helping to alleviate this pressure on NHS services during the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020, Hospice at Home healthcare assistants have provided over 17,000 hours of care, to patients across 20 local towns and villages.

The service receives referrals for a variety of reasons, which include ensuring a patient can return home from hospital safely; so that a family member or carer can get some much-needed rest; and so patients are able to die in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by their loved ones.

Janet Dunphy, Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust CEO, said: ‘We are immensely proud of our Hospice at Home service and everything that it has achieved in its short but staggering lifetime so far. Founded thanks to a generous donation left in the will of a local person, the service has grown and evolved over the past five years, and is seen as an essential provider of the highest quality end of life care by our funders, fellow providers and community professionals.

‘The past year during Covid-19 especially, we have seen the importance of people wishing to stay safe at home, instead of being admitted to hospitals or other in-patient units where no family or visitors have been permitted. Hospice at Home has enabled so many local patients to stay at home, with their loved ones beside them.

‘We are grateful to the hundreds of local families who’ve allowed us into their homes to provide compassionate care to patients who wish to die with dignity in their own, comfortable surroundings. We are looking forward to the next five years and beyond, to continue the Hospice at Home legacy.’

Find out more about the service and make a referral.

We are thanking our volunteers and donors for their unwavering support during the past year.

Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust is reflecting on an unprecedented year, as this week sees the first anniversary of the UK’s initial Covid-19 lockdown.

During the past 12 months, the hospice’s fundraising events have been cancelled, and four much-loved shops in Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith, New Mills and Whaley Bridge have been closed for the majority of the time. This has reflected hugely in the charity’s capacity to raise vital funds for local care. The hospice is more than £190,000 under the budget it would have expected to receive had, its four shops been open as normal between April 2020 and now – that’s over 55% down on expected income.

Despite this, staff and volunteers have never stopped being there for the local community. The Hospice at Home service has enabled over 190 local patients to stay safe at home, when they might otherwise have been admitted to hospital, where no visitors have been allowed. Helping to alleviate pressure on NHS services, hospice healthcare assistants have provided over 17,000 hours of care since March 2020, to patients across 19 local towns and villages.

Blythe House’s Community Hub has continued to provide specialist palliative care and support to patients and carers. As well as dealing with patient’s understandable concerns about the pandemic, the team has answered difficult questions around changes or cancellations to treatment plans, for people who are living with, or dying from, life-limiting illnesses such as cancer.

Alongside clinical staff, the hospice’s team of 42 community volunteers has been available seven-days-a-week to support over 200 patients and local people who’re elderly, vulnerable or isolated, with tasks including shopping, medication deliveries, pet walking and socially-distanced garden visits. Volunteers have donated over 2,500 hours of their time to provide more than 3,400 companion phone calls and 1,140 Covid-safe visits.

Hospice counsellors have continued to provide Covid-secure meetings for adults, and play therapy for children, who’re experiencing bereavement throughout the pandemic.

Janet Dunphy, hospice CEO, said: ‘We simply could not have managed to continue providing our high-class services and care if it wasn’t for the support of our local communities. Our amazing volunteers have donated so many thousands of hours of their time to give something back. Supporters have thought up unique and special ways to raise vital funds for hospice care, during what has been a stormy year for everyone. We are so incredibly grateful for everyone’s support and I mean it when I say that Blythe House and Helen’s Trust would not be here without you – thank you sincerely.

‘We know that healthcare will have to be delivered differently in some areas due to the effects of Covid; but we are more than ready to face those challenges. We will be here, as we always have been, to support those people in our community who are bereaved, who are affected by life-limiting illness and those who are suffering due to long Covid.

‘We have a newly-revamped, modernised, Covid-safe building, with a multi-disciplinary team to help as many people as possible. Our Hospice at Home service continues to evolve as more and more people choose to stay at home. We are committed to supporting hospital discharges and preventing in-patient unit admissions. We’re here to help, and here to stay.’

The hospice receives just 21% of its funding from the government, and must raise the remaining costs via fundraising events, voluntary donations and its charity shops.

Local people can support palliative and end of life care in their community by setting up a regular monthly donation of just £5. Over the course of a year, this money would help to fund compassionate healthcare assistants to provide the highest quality end of life care to a local patient in the comfort of their own home – that equals just 16 pence per day!

Find out more about setting up a direct debit to support Blythe House and Helen’s Trust

Our sincere thanks go to the following people who’s time and support meant that the film did not cost the charity anything to produce:

The film was produced in-line with government regulations and following a strict COVID-19 safety policy.

 

We are taking an opportunity to commemorate the legacy of Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home senior manager, as she gets set to retire at the end of the month.

Here, in her own words, Ruth explains more about her esteemed career: ‘It all started when two aunts died leaving behind young children, and my father was killed in an accident at work before I was 12 years old, my wonderful mother became both parents. I had to dig deep, growing up very quickly and helping to support my brother, who was five years my junior. I left school without qualifications despite a grammar school scholarship; turning my back on education as it had mattered so much to both my parents.

‘On leaving school, I went on to have a number of jobs, always drawn to a caring role. I was married at 17 and as well as continued work in social care, my husband and I fostered 27 children. I worked at the Devonshire Hospital in Buxton as a nursing auxiliary, and a physio assistant during the late 70s. During this period, I studied at the local college in the evenings achieving a number of GCSEs and an A Level. A move to our farm in 1981 presented us with a brand-new way of life including the arrival of our son. This was followed two years later by the arrival of our daughter. Milking, calving, lambing and continued work with local social care alongside raising our family, kept me busy.

‘When the children were both at school, I became a nursing auxiliary and bath nurse at Baslow Surgery and I was there for 14 years. My role developed to include care of patients with dementia, and I organised bi-annual tea dances in the hope of stimulating memories through music. These were extremely successful and were on calendars well in advance. I began an art group for disabled called Artability, which again achieved great success, indeed I have pictures that hang in my home that were painted for me by my wonderful artists.

‘In 2000, I was encouraged to apply for nurse training by the GPs I worked with at Baslow Surgery. All those qualifications supported this opportunity and at 47 I went to Sheffield University. I graduated in 2004 as an adult nurse just as I celebrated my 50th Birthday. I was drawn to work at Weston Park Hospital due to my interest in palliative and end of life care, and was successful in achieving a rotational post.

‘I was there for a couple of years but missed the community aspect to my role, and applied to do a district nursing degree. I achieved my BA hons in specialist community nursing in 2007 from Sheffield Hallam University, having worked out in New Zealand on a community placement. I returned to Baslow Surgery as district nurse and in the latter years became community matron.

‘We can achieve academically at any age and I am proof that it is never too late. I have always had a clear plan of what I want to achieve next and wanted to end my career in management, with a focus on good end of life care. Sadly, death has never been far away and more of my close family died far too soon, including my lovely mum in 2001 and my husband in 2010. This consolidated my view of what constitutes a good death and made me focus on its importance for both patients and their loved ones.

‘The opportunity to join Blythe House Hospicecare as Hospice at Home manager and to help develop a service for patients in the last year of life was my dream and I believe was always meant to be. It bought together all my experience and skills, and gave me the opportunity to develop a fantastic team all passionate about good end of life care. I am eternally grateful to Janet (CEO) and the board of trustees for the opportunity, resulting in the development of a first-class service so desperately needed. The service has grown and evolved and is now seen as an essential provider of highest quality end of life care by the CCG and fellow providers and community professionals. Most of all, to the many patients and families who have received our valuable care.

‘I thank all who were pivotal to our success; Sam and Kathy who were alongside me from the beginning, the team of healthcare assistants who are pivotal in delivering this high-quality service and have grown to a 40-strong team; Jude who is now manager, and to Jill who is stepping into my role.

‘I look forward to supporting Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust in my retirement and volunteering my services and expertise in any way seen as beneficial.’

Find out more about Hospice at Home.