Philippa Heath, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, became a Hospice at Home healthcare assistant in March 2017 after deciding to apply because of her passion for ‘people to have the choice and the option to die at home.’
Here, she explains more…
‘My husband sadly died two years earlier; it was his preference to be at home until the end and this was made possible with the dedication of the district nurses, and of course family and friends. Hospice at Home was not available then but I could see the huge benefits to patients and families that it would bring.
‘I enjoy every aspect of my job and see it as a privilege to be able to be part of a patient’s journey towards the end of life. As well as personal care, we are there to help with general day-to-day tasks and sometimes to just be a listening ear. We often sit with patients to allow their carers, usually a spouse or other family members, to get some respite. Each person has his or her own personal needs so it is a varied and challenging role.
‘It is paramount for everyone to benefit from good end of life care. Every single person matters and whilst we are caring for them, they are still living their best life possible. We can ensure that personal needs are met to avoid unnecessary discomfort and that dignity is maintained throughout. We can be the eyes for the district nurses and doctors, and so report any issues as soon as anything becomes known. We offer support in whatever way is needed. Many families feel lost or overwhelmed, and to be able to offer the kind of help and support that Hospice at Home does is just incredible, usually when families are exhausted, scared and in emotional turmoil.
‘I’ve been with patients on just two occasions at the actual time of death and arrived at one house very soon after. On a practical basis, I have called for a doctor to certify death, contacted the funeral directors, and helped to wash and dress the deceased. On the more emotional side, just giving the family space, understanding, staying calm and of course making tea. Sometimes just being there is worth its weight in gold. I truly believe that we make a huge difference to every single person we sit with. Being with a lady while she died just before midnight one evening really sticks in my mind. I held her hand, talked to her and was able to let the family know that she was not alone in her final moments and that it was a peaceful. This is something each family can take great comfort from.
‘I hope that Hospice at Home can continue to grow. We are so lucky to have this service in the High Peak and I feel privileged to work for Blythe House. Being able to die at home provides so much comfort to the patient, surrounded by people and things that they love.’