St Margaret’s gave us the best gift of all. They helped us to have the last Christmas with mum that we all needed. We felt looked after and cherished at the most difficult time in our lives.
Right from the start, the care felt personalised for mum. I reached out to St Margaret’s because mum’s cancer had spread, and we didn’t know where to turn. It didn’t take long for a hospice nurse to come and visit us at home. The nurse talked to mum about her illness, and about how the hospice could help. She really took her time talking to mum, she got to know her and listened to her concerns which helped her come to terms with her new condition. The hospice sorted out equipment like a ramp and a wheelchair so we could take day trips with mum, because she loved being outside, especially by the sea. Having a wheelchair that was small enough to fit mum, gave her confidence to go out and it allowed us to all spend quality time together, doing the things mum loved.
Karen and her parents at the seaside
Mum and dad had been married for over 60 years and he cared for her when she was unwell. I offered to help but they wanted to manage on their own. I could tell looking after mum was taking its toll on him, and I was starting to worry. When the hospice nurse came back to assess mum, dad fell, he almost collapsed onto mum but the nurse caught him. She could see that dad was exhausted, and they needed help.
When mum went to stay on the Inpatient Unit, it was a huge relief. As soon as we walked through the hospice doors, there was a warmth that made us feel relaxed. It was very much about mum, but it still felt like Christmas, and mum loved Christmas! There were lights, a Christmas tree and even someone dressed up as a Santa! It felt like a big cheerful hug around the whole family – it was a circle of love around us, done with care (and Christmas chocolates!).
Dad visited mum every day and the hospice really looked after him, making sure he was eating and drinking enough and if he was upset, they would spend time with him too, as well as mum. If it hadn’t been for the hospice, I wouldn’t have felt confident that he would be ok because at home, dad would not leave mum’s side. She was safe in the hospice, and he knew she was being well looked after so he was able to take time to rest. I think it helped dad prepare. He knew what was going to happen but I felt that it made him emotionally stronger to cope with it. And we all felt this way, like we could come away and take time for ourselves and have quality time with mum, for one last Christmas.
Karen's mum and dad at Christmas
Our last Christmas with mum was happy and felt really special and that wouldn’t have been possible without St Margaret’s. They helped us enjoy Christmas at a time when we really needed to. Dad was able to go to Midnight Mass, which was important to him because of his faith. And on Christmas Day, I got to spend some time alone with mum. The hospice had given her a small gift bag, filled with little presents and bits of chocolate which was so thoughtful. I didn’t even think about bringing chocolate for mum – but the hospice had, because they thought of everything. They even got mum’s favourite Christmas tipple, a glass of Bailey's!
When the grandchildren came to visit, there was space for them to sit and do some drawings for mum. Santa chatted to them about how he comes to the hospice for rest after delivering presents. It was our last Christmas with mum, but it didn’t feel sad. The magic of Christmas was still there, because the hospice valued this special time of year just as much as us.
Everyone at the hospice had time for us to make sure we enjoyed our Christmas together. All the little things they did made such a big difference, almost like a puzzle. Gradually, they filled in each piece of the puzzle for us, until there was a whole picture, of a happy Christmas.