‘Without the hospice, I would not have survived. They helped me to keep my Dad in his own home; where he wanted to be, and that was the best thing I could have wished for.

‘I am so proud to plant a sunflower in memory of my beloved dad and step-mum – to honour their memories and to support the invaluable work of Blythe House and Helen’s Trust.’

Sandra

Sandra, who is a district nurse with the Bakewell and Baslow Team for Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, regularly refers her own patients to our Hospice at Home service, for palliative and end of life care in their own homes.

The service has now been able to support Sandra’s own family, after supporting her step mother, Lillian to die peacefully at home in February 2021, and then to Sandra’s dad, John, before he sadly died in October.

Sandra, who’s from Youlgreave, said: ‘Lillian’s illness progressed very quickly – she became symptomatic in October 2020, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Lillian was a healthcare assistant during her career, so she knew what was coming; things really started to escalate from Christmas and she was in and out of hospital.

‘Prior to her illness, Lillian was Dad’s full-time support and they had been married for 23 years. As well as heart failure, Dad has also been diagnosed with kidney failure and he too, has had cancer in the past. Dad was very independent and could do a lot of things for himself, but Lillian would help him to dress and get him ready for bed. Sometimes during the night, Dad would wake up disorientated and Lillian was always there to say “go back to sleep, John.”

‘My husband and I moved in to support them both when Lillian became too unwell. Her illness was a huge shock to everyone as she was fiercely independent. During the last week of her life, I called upon Blythe House and Helen’s Trust to see if they could step in to provide night-time sits. The sits supported my husband and I to go back home and have a change of scenery, get a good nights’ rest and to enable me to cope with the day-time care for them both.

‘Lillian did have, what I would call, a “perfect death.” I am a big believer in having a good death, in my role as a district nurse. She looked beautiful; she wasn’t agitated or in pain. It was the best it could have been.

John and Lillian

‘After Lillian died, Blythe House and Helen’s Trust started to provide respite night-time care for Dad. The night-time sits provided by the hospice helped me to have much-needed time out, go home, have a change of scenery and a full night’s sleep. The hospice team was so flexible; they always accommodated my working pattern and spaced out the sits depending on my shifts, so that I was not exhausted.

‘The continuity of care for Dad was just fantastic; all the healthcare assistants developed a therapeutic relationship with Dad and he enjoyed the rapport and their company. We also had support from a hospice community volunteer called Charlie. He visited to chat to Dad, or read to him. The visits gave me chance to go out and do shopping, walk Dad’s dog, Patch, or catch up with jobs at home; knowing Dad was in very safe hands.

‘In July, we went to Norfolk on a big family holiday – it was fantastic, and I will always treasure the measures. In September, Dad could no longer stand and I knew it was the beginning of the end for him. The whole family railed to support him. My sister and daughter, who are both nurses, and my stepsister, Marion (Lillian’s daughter), provided lots of support.

‘On the 1st of October, the Hospice at Home healthcare assistant, Kevin, called me at 6am and said that Dad’s breathing had changed. The whole family went to his bedside, where we chatted, reminisced and laughed. Later on, I said “come on Dad, go to sleep now.” He died peacefully in his own bed, surrounded by his family later that afternoon. I feel I did everything I could for him and I can live with myself that Dad had a good death.

‘Afterwards, we had a collection for Blythe House and Helen’s Trust at Dad’s funeral, and much of his home furniture and clothes went to the hospice’s charity shops. Without the hospice, I would not have survived. They helped me to keep my Dad in his own home; where he wanted to be, and that was the best thing I could have wished for.’

Dedicate a sunflower today.

Find out more about our Hospice at Home service and how it could support your family.

Learn more about supporting the hospice including donating to our local shops and organising a funeral collection in aid of Blythe House and Helen’s Trust.