Both the daily groups for patients and the Friday Social Group, which caters for people who are elderly and at risk of isolation, ceased meeting in early March to ensure the safety of everyone we care for and our staff.
But that doesn’t mean our usual visitors have been forgotten.
Far from it – as the Living Well Centre staff have been busy organising activities, writing letters, making phone calls – all in the aim of ensuring our patients and group members are still included in the John Taylor Hospice family.
Living Well Centre Team Lead Julie Bennett explains: “We phone the patients and the Friday Social Group members weekly. It’s a supportive call, just to check they are doing all right and to see if they have any problems we can help with.
“The response has been really positive, they like to keep in touch and know how things are going here at the hospice. Most people are managing although this is a very difficult time for them. They are largely locked down and that does bring its challenges so we have made a couple of referrals to our Wellbeing Team for people who could benefit from a bit of extra help.”
The hospice has provided practical help in the form of meals cooked by the Catering Team and delivered as frozen dinners to some patients who are struggling to manage shopping. And the Hospice at Home Team has helped in making deliveries to patients.
Complementary Therapist Angela Vigus has also put together a programme of support.
“We’ve been sending out letters and parcels regularly,” she says. “We’ve sent aroma sticks, creams and gels, mindfulness colouring, Living Well Centre word searches, ‘thought of the week’ and I created a 110-page electronic outdoor moments paper full of beautiful photos and thoughts – all things to help with wellbeing.”
“We are doing all we can to ensure items like the word searches include ‘eye gaze’ technology with a code people can enter onto a computer. This means some of our patients, for example people with motor neurone disease who can’t hold a pen, can still take part in the activities on their computers.
“We have paper butterflies in our complementary therapies room so I sent out butterflies so people can have a bit of the hospice at their home and we were donated some lovely knitted hearts so we also sent those.
“I’ve been offering one-to-one meditation over the phone as a lot of the patients really enjoy that at the Living Well Centre. When I call them they tell me they are already tucked up in bed waiting to relax!
“It’s all about ensuring the people we care for don’t feel isolated or forgotten. Just a quick call or receiving something lovely in the post reminds them we are thinking of them.”
Many of the services in Living Well Centre are supported by volunteers and the hospice’s Volunteering Managers have also been making regular calls to ensure the volunteers are kept updated.
With the next few weeks and months uncertain due to COVID-19 the team don’t yet know when the Living Well Centre groups will be able to re-join physically – but they are looking for alternatives.
Julie says: “Most of our patients are shielding so won’t be able to return quickly even if we were able to open the Living Well Centre. So we are now investigating how we could hold online groups as a possible way forward. Not everyone may want to do that but we are looking at it as a possibility.
“Our Living Well Centre is usually such a happy place, full of people laughing and having fun, and we know both our patients and our Friday Social Group are really missing coming together. But we are doing all we can to ensure they are still included in activities and have a link back to us. And we’re looking forward to seeing them again when we can.”