Caring through Covid: How our hospices continue to support local families

A Children's Hospice South West care team going to visit a patient at home. Picture: CHSW

A Children's Hospice South West care team going to visit a patient at home. Picture: CHSW - Credit: CHSW

Since 1995, North Devon’s Light Up a Life appeal has given local people the chance to remember a loved one in the build-up to Christmas, while helping to support the vital work of the area’s two hospice charities – Children’s Hospice South West and North Devon Hospice.

And in such a difficult year, the 2020 appeal offers a chance to reflect on so much that we’ve lost during the pandemic, but also to celebrate how our hospices have continued to support local families.

At Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Bridge House, coronavirus has had a huge impact on the care the hospice provides, but for the families themselves, it has brought unimaginable new challenges and anxieties.

Care team leader Sam Pidner understands more than most what the pandemic has been like for families shielding extremely vulnerable children, and says the hospice in Fremington has adapted its care to continue supporting those who need that extra love and support more than ever.

Sam said: “The pandemic has had a massive impact on the families we support, not only for the children, but for siblings and parents as well.


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“Some parents haven’t been able to go to work, or some have had to continue working and live separately. We’ve also had some families whose care packages have fallen through due to Covid, or they’ve had to cancel carers going in because they have had to be really strict with the shielding.

“Many families have had to do all the care; they really look forward to their routine respite stays and it’s been a real struggle for them at times. At the start of the pandemic, we could only deliver end-of-life and symptom control in-house, but we have since been able to offer that vital emergency respite.

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“We’ve also been offering lots of phone and email support to families, and for the first time ever we have been going out into the community to support families at home.

“We’ve been able to cover some care packages that have fallen through because of Covid and we’ve also been out and done lots of doorstep visits – sometimes just to say hello and take them some homemade cake from the hospice kitchen and activities for the children.

“All of the staff have really enjoyed going out to the families’ houses. Most families we look after have been self-isolating really strictly, so seeing someone different has been quite nice for them.

“I’m also part of the bereavement team and although we haven’t been able to do our normal face-to-face support group sessions, we have held these sessions via Zoom quite regularly during lockdown.

“Our sibling teams have also been continuing to support brothers and sisters who are bereaved. It’s a really challenging time at the moment for anyone, but I think if you’re bereaved, particularly, it can be quite a lonely time.

“It’s just lovely to be able to help and support as much as we can; it’s frustrating at times because we are used to the hospice being like a home-from-home and we miss the normality of having a busy crazy house; but being able to support where we can is really lovely and I think families have appreciated it.

“We are only able to keep offering this support because of the incredible fundraising by people in the local community, so please make a donation to this year’s Light Up a Life appeal if you can.”

Although the usual Light Up a Life services are unable to go ahead this year due to the pandemic, people can watch a virtual service from the safety of their own homes on December 11.

A service from North Devon Hospice will be streamed on the NDH Facebook page at 6pm, followed by a service from Little Bridge House on the CHSW Facebook page at 7pm. Both will also be available to watch on the hospice websites.

You can support CHSW by lighting a star in a loved one’s memory, or by buying a beautiful hurricane candle holder, hand-crafted by Dartington Crystal.

Visit www.chsw.org.uk/lual for more information, or to make a donation to either hospice, visit www.lual.co.uk .

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