Volunteers at Blythe House have provided over 800 support visits to local people who are elderly, vulnerable or isolated during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Community Volunteer team has been on hand to help with tasks including shopping, prescription collections, transport to medical appointments, telephone companionship and pet walking, over the last three months.

Dedicated volunteers have also collected personal protective equipment, kindly donated by local individuals and businesses, for the hospice’s nurses and healthcare assistants to continue providing palliative and end of life care safely.

The Community Volunteer programme provides support and companionship to Blythe House patients, who are affected by life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and neurological conditions like motor neurone disease.

Following the lockdown announcement in March, the team offered to help anyone across the local community, who needed extra support during the unprecedented circumstances.

Volunteers helped to spread the word about the service by giving their time, in-line with Government exercise restrictions, to post over 5,000 Here to Help leaflets in more than 300 residential streets and 65 essential shops.

Vicci Wild and Julie Forrest have taken the huge task of coordinating the volunteer efforts across the High Peak, including in Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Chinley, Combs, Dove Holes, Furness Vale, Hayfield, Longnor, New Mills, Quarnford, Tunstead Milton and Whaley Bridge.

Vicci said: ‘We send our sincere and heartfelt thanks to our volunteers who have gone above and beyond over the last few, difficult months, to support local people who are in need. Volunteers have been creative in thinking of substitutions for items on a shopping list that were not available; returning twice to the pharmacy for prescription mix ups; phoning daily to a vulnerable person with limited support to check they are OK; and so much more.

‘We want our volunteers to know that they have not just been filling requests for medication pickups, filling transportation needs, filling cupboards and pantries; they are filling hearts. Their simple gestures of kindness resonate across our community. Just knowing that this service exists is enough to get some people through.’

Julie added: ‘When lockdown was announced, we were not quite sure what the community response would look like, but we could not be prouder of our fantastic team of volunteers and supporters! Our flexible team, which has grown from 22 members to almost 50 since March, has ensured that every single request for help has been filled.

‘We listen to the needs of those around us, and adapt our services to fill those needs in the here and now. Sixty-one of the families that the Community Volunteer team is helping have had no prior connection to the hospice. The sense that we are in our community, for our community has never been clearer.’

Hospice services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Find out more about the Community Volunteer team, including how to volunteer.

Feature photo shows:

  • Jon Davey walking Stanley in Buxton [owner self-isolated for 12 weeks]
  • Liz Burns providing transport to The Christie hospital for a patient to have chemotherapy treatment
  • Denise Bloom providing telephone support

People across the High Peak and surrounding communities are invited to commemorate the memory of a loved one by helping to raise funds for Blythe House.

Supporters can dedicate a flower in memory of someone special, and make a donation throughout this month, for the hospice’s Sunflower Memories appeal.

Usually the special event every June sees the hospice garden in Chapel-en-le-Frith come alive in a blaze of bright yellow and orange sunflowers, but this year, due to the ongoing situation, donors will receive a personalised sunflower plaque, to plant in their own home or garden.

There are plans to re-create the hospice’s field of sunflowers virtually; and people are invited to send a photo of their planted plaque, so that our fundraising team can share tributes and reminiscences on social media.

Katie Holt, Supporter Engagement Officer (left), explains: ‘The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us, but at Blythe House, our nurses and healthcare assistants are continuing to provide end of life care to patients in the comfort of their own homes. Our hospice team is also on hand to give telephone support, counselling and guidance, to patients, families and carers throughout the ongoing situation.

‘We are very proud to be supporting hundreds of members of our local community who are elderly, lonely or isolated; helping with shopping, medication deliveries, transport to hospital for chemotherapy or other treatments, and walking pets.

‘We would love for local people to get involved in this very special campaign; a poignant way to remember loved ones across the High Peak and to celebrate their lives. In turn, donations will help us to ensure that we are able to continue providing free services and support, to local people who need it most.’

Dedicate a sunflower in memory of someone you love.

A leaflet filled with advice and guidance about palliative and end of life care is being distributed across the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales to support primary care staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janet Dunphy, CEO at Blythe House Hospicecare, has drafted the document to offer advice and support to local colleagues, who may be experiencing more conversations about death and dying due to the current situation.

Janet, who has over 35 years of experience as an end of life care specialist, said: ‘Originally I devised the leaflet with care home staff in mind, but having written it, I hope it will be beneficial to colleagues across the healthcare sector during the current times.

‘I just wanted to share some useful phrases that I have learnt over the years of working with dying people and their families. The leaflet has advice on having difficult conversations and answering tricky questions on subjects including what to expect when someone is dying, as well as medication and treatment issues. There is also some mental health and well-being guidance, which could not be more important now. I sincerely hope local healthcare professionals have and will find the leaflet helpful.’

Dr Louise Jordan from Baslow Health Centre said: ‘Both clinical and admin staff at the surgery have found the leaflet to be incredibly useful; we have downloaded and printed further copies from the hospice’s website. Not only do I believe it’s valuable to healthcare staff, but members of the public may find it of interest, especially during the unprecedented times we find ourselves in at the moment.’

Read and download a copy of the ‘thinking of you’ leaflet.

Sincere thanks to mum and daughter, Val and Megan Jackson from Combs who have raised £640 for Blythe House by compiling a community cookbook for the village – featuring soups, starters, snacks, mains, desserts and cakes!

Val explained: ‘Like so many others we have been staying in at home. Although unable to go out and about to do anything at practical level, we wanted to find some way of contributing, so we have asked village residents to email us their favourite recipes. We are in the process of compiling these into a ‘Combs Comforts’ village cookbook, which will be emailed out to everyone in the village to share. In return, we will be asking everyone to make a voluntary contribution to Blythe House. We hope the money raised will be of use to you in these challenging times.’

The best part is they have decided to make the cookbook available to the wider High Peak community!

Download it here now!

Make a donation to the ladies’ Just Giving page in return.

Virtual Quiz Night

High Peak people affected by life-limiting illness are set to benefit from a virtual fundraising quiz hosted by the borough’s MP.

Robert Largan MP is set to host a general knowledge quiz on Friday 5th June, to raise money for Blythe House.

A suggested minimum donation of £5 per household will ensure that we can continue to provide free services to local people who are affected by life-limiting illnesses including cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and motor neurone disease.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 situation, hospice nurses and healthcare assistants continue to deliver palliative and end of life care to patients and families across the local community. The hospice team is also delivering counselling, advice and support over the phone.

Robert said: ‘Blythe House do amazing work and I’m really pleased to be able to help support them during this difficult time when a lot of traditional fundraising efforts are not possible. I look forward to testing the people of High Peak on their pub quiz skills!’

Alistair Rogerson, Business Development Manager at Blythe House, added: ‘We are very grateful to Robert for giving his time for free and offering to host this quiz in aid of the hospice. If 50 households take part, donating just £5 each, the money raised will pay for 15 hours of Hospice at Home care for a local patient who wishes to die in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by their loved ones.’

The quiz winner will receive a hamper of gifts including biscuits, activities and a House of Commons bottle of whisky donated by Robert.

Registrations are limited so to avoid disappointment, find out more and sign up now.

Emma Richards, Community Engagement Facilitator at Blythe House Hospicecare, took part in a special fundraising event for the hospice earlier this month, alongside fellow members of an exercise class. They each ran 5km with their families during lockdown – making up a marathon 26 mile total! Emma explains…

We are more than aware that a lot can happen in a week. We have heard of amazing gestures of generosity in times of such adversity. I would like to share with you how touched I was to hear the HIT class I attend was going to hold a fundraising event and it had been decided that Blythe House Hospicecare would be the recipient.

Jo Torr, who organised the fundraising event, said: ‘I wanted to organise and participate in this relay marathon in aid of Blythe House Hospicecare, as the care and love that hospices provide to families is second to none. Their whole ethos is to create a loving, supportive and peaceful environment for the patients and loved ones at a stressful and emotional time.’

Participants volunteered within minutes of a text going out from Jo. My boys volunteered to participate and I agreed to accompany them. I immediately responded to the team with the following message:

‘A huge thank you in advance. It is such a challenging time for all charities who continue to provide front line care in the community, for the community. In the light of the COVID-19 outbreak, I have listened to patients and carers in the Living Well service, who have had their support network removed overnight with social distancing. More recently, I have been redeployed to the Hospice at Home team. I have seen immediately how much our care and compassion impacts so positively on the patients and carers that we listen to and visit. We have never been needed like we have now. On behalf of Blythe House, I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.’

With the lockdown at that time only allowing for an hour of outside activity, Jo decided on the relay idea; 3 groups with 3 participants in each group all scattered over the High Peak. The run commenced at 11.00 a.m. on Sunday 3rd of May. When each of the groups completed their 5k distance, they texted the next participant. I was moved with joy at the messages of support that began to pour in from everyone once the relay had been completed.

Donna said: ‘I felt it was a privilege to run in support of Blythe House, because not only was it a wonderful way to join with my running friends in our relay event, but also to connect with the Blythe House community. It is important to reach out and connect, particularly during this time of isolation. You are all in our thoughts and hearts.’

Even more amazing to think that it took only one week from the conception to completion! Two days after the relay marathon, we have raised an amazing £1,005 and still counting.

Georgie said: ‘It is lovely to do something positive and worthwhile with everything that is going on in the world. I am going to bed feeling happy that we did something that will make a difference.’

Torr de Force have been blown away by the generosity of everyone who has taken the time to donate. I would like to present to you all the Torr de Force team: Jo Torr, Georgie Swift, Nicki Horry, Aga Bickford, Alexandra Sheldon, Miriam Fanshawe (who then had to volunteer her husband Richard, due to an injury – bless you for standing in last minute to allow this to go ahead!), Donna Wood, Noah and Asher Richards (my boys), and of course me following up at the end!

When a group of ladies (and men/boys) come together and unite, we are unstoppable! What a formidable Force indeed!

As Blythe House CEO, Janet said: ‘You are hero’s!’ – I couldn’t agree more!

I would like to finish with another quote from Donna: ‘We are a community not just individuals’.

These sentiments are so meaningful/profound, as the feeling is replicated by Blythe House Hospicecare. We are there for the community but equally the community is there for us. We should all take pride in recognising we are so valued for the crucial role we are playing in our community.

Throughout this week (11-17 May 2020), Blythe House Hospicecare is commemorating Dying Matters Awareness Week, and inviting you to open up and start the conversation about death and dying.

Dying Matters explains: ‘Talking about death doesn’t bring death closer. It’s about planning for life, helping us make the most of the time that we have. However, starting the conversation, particularly with those close to you, is never easy. We don’t want to upset people, or sound gloomy. Still, families commonly report that it comes as a relief once the subject is brought out into the open.’

Now, more than ever, it is important for us to have these discussions with our loved ones. Subjects you might like to talk about include:

  • The type of care you’d like towards the end of your life
  • Where you’d like to die
  • Funeral arrangements
  • Your will
  • What you’d like people to know before you die

Janet Dunphy, Blythe House CEO, says: ‘It is a good time to have those sensitive and really important conversations about what matters…’

Watch Janet’s video now:

Throughout the current situation, our hospice team is providing advice and support to hundreds of local patients and carers about the COVID-19 pandemic. Louise Furmston, our community engagement manager, explained: ‘The current situation has heightened issues around dying. We have seen a definite increase in isolation and losses, compounded by coronavirus. Patients and carers are feeling overwhelmed and are finding it difficult with the loss of 1:1, face-to-face support at the hospice. We have been there to advise local people with questions including about end of life concerns.’ Find out more.

Many people have turned to arts and crafts to occupy their mind over the last few months. This Dying Matters Awareness Week, we have thought about a number of creative ideas you could set your mind to, to keep busy and help you to think about death, dying and bereavement:

  • Create your own, mini ‘before I die’ board.
  • Why not stitch, knit or sew a heart or rainbow to let someone know you’re thinking of them and you are there if they need to chat. Download a free rainbow of hope pattern.
  • Have a go at designing your own coffin! Perhaps you don’t want a standard wooden box – maybe you’d like it to be bright yellow, or painted with seaside huts as a reminder of your favourite holiday destination! You might like a different material like wicker or bamboo! Whatever your ideas, get them down on paper and share them with your family.
  • For hundreds of ideas around getting creative to support grief and bereavement, including painting rocks, making a memory lantern and creating a remembering ornament, visit Pinterest.

Find lots of helpful resources including leaflets about supporting bereavement; talking about dying; and things to do before you die, on the Dying Matters website.

A nighttime walk organised to raise vital funds for hospice care in the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales is set to get the whole community glowing when it returns next year.

Our Glow Twilight Walk was due to take place on Saturday 18th July 2020, but following recent Government measures, and in times of such unprecedented uncertainty, this year’s walk is being postponed.

The hospice has worked with event partners and the venue over the last few weeks, and is delighted to announce a new date for the 10k event: Saturday 15th May 2021.

Janet Dunphy, Blythe House Hospicecare CEO, said: ‘Obviously this is not the decision we wanted to make about our fantastic Glow Twilight Walk. The event in 2019 was our first ever, seeing hundreds of people don fancy dress and glow sticks to light up the night in Buxton and raise over £20,725 for hospice care and services.

‘We were incredibly excited to host the second annual event this July, and though we are optimistic that the situation in the UK will have improved by then, we are no longer able to spend the coming weeks working closely with event partners, volunteers, suppliers and of course our dedicated hospice supporters, making the Glow Twilight Walk a reality.

‘We sincerely hope everyone will come together to join us on Saturday 15th May next year, to get their glow on and have a fantastic time with loved ones whilst raising money for end of life and palliative care here in our local community.’

If you have already registered for this year’s Glow Twilight Walk, your place will be transferred automatically to the new date in May 2021. If you cannot make the new date, you would like a refund, or if you have any queries, please email: events@blythehouse.co.uk.

Blythe House Hospicecare healthcare assistants continue to support palliative and end of life patients in the local community during the ongoing COVID-19 situation. If you would like to make a donation to support hospice services throughout this time, please visit our donation page.

Follow Blythe House on social media to stay up to date on when registration for next year’s Glow Twilight Walk will open:

The coronavirus pandemic is understandably leaving many of us feeling worried and anxious about the future. We have put together this web page to collate helpful advice and information about looking after yourself and your mental well-being during this uncertain time. It will be updated regularly with new content, and we hope that you find it helpful.

Linda Brady, one of our counsellors, has recorded some simple meditation practices which you can enjoy in your own time.

  • The first is a three minute breathing exercise
  • The second is a meditation for feeling as safe as you reasonably can
  • The third is a grounding exercise that you may find useful

Linda has taken the time to share some ideas to help you stay connected throughout this time. She explained: ‘We know many of you will be missing the physical connection between you and your family and friends – that face-to-face contact that we often take for granted.’ Read Linda’s advice now.

Linda has also highlighted support available from Action for Happiness. She said: ‘They produce monthly “coping calendars” which suggest actions that we can take to look after ourselves and each other. You can sign up to get each month’s calendar sent to you. There’s also an app for mobile phones that might be helpful.’ Visit the website to find out more.

Ann Burgoyne, who usually runs a weekly mindfulness meditation class at Blythe House, got in touch to offer a breathing practice called the ‘3 minute breathing space.’ She explained: ‘It uses a short acronym AGE to help remember how it goes. We use this sometimes to start our Wednesday evening meditation group at Blythe House.’

Pause whatever you are doing, eyes can be open or closed…

  • 1st Minute – A – Become Aware of the activity of the mind (thoughts, thinking, etc.), feelings and sensations in the body
  • 2nd Minute – G – Gather the awareness in to rest on your breathing and each breath as it happens
  • 3rd Minute – E – Expand your awareness out to notice the whole body and the space around your body.

‘Notice how you are at the end of the practice and if you feel you need to calm a little more simply rest your awareness on the next three breaths, breathing right to the end of each of the outbreaths. At the end of the third outbreath, let go and allow the breathing to gently settle back into it’s natural rhythm and move into the rest of your day. Do this as openly as you need or wish through the day.’

  • The Wellness Society have published a free Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook to help manage stress and anxiety during this period of global uncertainty. Download it for free now.
  • There are lots of free meditations readily available on YouTube to help support anxiety, worry or stress. Search here.
  • The Mindfulness Association is currently offering a free daily online meditation, 7pm-7.30pm, followed by a chat until 8pm. It’s a great way of getting a sense of connection to others.
  • Two well-known apps Headspace and Calm are both offering free content at the moment including meditations, soothing music, sleep exercise and stories.
  • Look out for online exercise classes that are being offered by personal trainers and gyms – including yoga, Pilates or more intensive workouts.
  • Enjoy a walk in the fresh air, whilst practicing social distancing.
  • Turning a mountain into hills – a useful article by Charlotte Walker who considers what she can and cannot control throughout the pandemic, and explains: ‘I hope it inspires you to think about your own mountain and how you could come up with your own version of more manageable hills.’
  • Tolerating uncertainty – by Carol Vivyan’s may be useful. She explains: ‘When we are anxious, we tend to over-estimate the danger, and the odds, of bad things happening, and we under-estimate our ability to cope if or when those bad things happen. Even if the odds are really small that a bad thing will happen, that tiny chance is enough to really upset us. We call it “intolerance of uncertainty”.’
  • Coronavirus: How to look after your self-care in these uncertain times – a very useful article from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
  • Mind have information on their website if you are worried about coronavirus and how it could affect your life. This may include being asked to stay at home or avoid other people. Find out more.
  • Helpful content including videos about emotional health and well-being during this time, from Derbyshire County Council.
  • Catherine Serjeant, art therapy coordinator, said: ‘The arts are a wonderful solace in times of trouble. So many times, I have heard people say how you forget all your troubles while being absorbed with crafts and arts. Now every morning I’m absorbed with an pictorial diary. I’m painting, drawing, collaging, writing.  You don’t have to be brilliant at it, just have a go and learn to laugh at yourself. How about keeping a diary of all the cooking and eating you’re doing including drawing or painting, crayoning, printing. If you find your taste buds have gone or you’re not feeling like eating, write or draw your frustrations… ‘the Frustration Monster!’ The ‘What If Monster’ is another idea to portray. It could perhaps be a 3D structure! Use stuff out of your garage or shed. Keep a scrapbook. Weave a wall hanging. Print with potatoes or just let your pencil have a wonderful doodle!’
  • Future Learn has courses available to help you manage your own mental health and support others who are struggling during this time. Find out more.

Other helpful articles:

Blythe House Hospicecare is increasing the level of community care to support the most vulnerable people as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The hospice is providing 24/7 end of life care in the comfort of patient’s homes. In addition, a team of hospice staff and volunteers is posting ‘kindness cards’ to let people know about support including shopping, prescription pick-ups, telephone chats and food parcels.

Nurses, counsellors and healthcare assistants are also on-hand to provide telephone support to all patients and their families.

Janet Dunphy, CEO, said: ‘Our community have supported us to develop to meet the increasing needs of people in the High Peak, and this is payback time, we will be there for them even more now. We are stronger together.

‘The well-being of the people we support, hospice visitors, staff and volunteers is our first priority and that’s why we are following advice and guidance issued by Public Health England and the UK Government.

‘At the present time, we are taking each day as it comes with regards to the ongoing situation. We have taken on-board Government advice and have made decisions to implement some changes to services whilst continuing to support the most isolated and vulnerable people in our local area.’

All non-essential meetings and sessions at the hospice or in the local community have been cancelled for the time being including coffee mornings; out-patient clinics; weekly support groups and walking for health sessions.

The hospice’s four chairty shops in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Buxton, New Mills and Whaley Bridge are all closed.

Janet added: ‘We are liaising closely with our event sponsors and co-organisers to determine what will happen to future fundraising events. National events that our supporters are involved in, like the London Marathon, have already been postponed. We will keep members of the public updated as soon as we have details of the plans going forward.’

If you or someone you know is feeling lonely or isolated due to the current situation, or you’d like to find out more about support from Blythe House, please contact Vicci Wild or Julie Forrest on 01298 816990.

Find out more via our dedicated coronavirus webpage.