A comfortable place to die

As I have grown older I have came to realise that there aren’t many guarantees in life. The only certainties in life are birth,death and change. We are born, changes take place and we die. To make things more pleasant all round and something we take for granted in the United Kingdom is that we will always have somewhere to go when we are sick. Get taken care of free of charge and when the inevitable happens are granted A comfortable place to die.

When a person is faced with a terminal illness, at some point thoughts come racing in to the mind where do you want to spend the last days. People’s answers are very personal ones. For some being at home and spending every last possible moment being cared for in the family home is their wish. Others prefer to be cared for in a hospice or hospital environment. Either way, the experience I have witnessed personally the care given has always been outstanding. The nursing staff making sure in the last weeks, days and right down to moments comfort is paramount.

There is no getting away from it making a choice where you want to end your days is far from easy. There is an awful lot to consider. However even when all the pros and cons are weighed up and it’s been decided home, hospital or hospice sometimes it just doesn’t go as smooth as you would expect.

We may choose to stay at home and be cared for by your loved ones and supported by district nursing team. Most of the time it goes well and you get your wish and you can stay at home. The district nurse team and Marie curie nurses that cared for my Father in his home gave him a caring, dignified last few days. For that we cannot thank the wonderful medical team enough and will forever be in their debt. Home nursing teams work very hard looking after the patient, ordering drugs, equipment, supplies, communicating with other health professionals. We are lucky to have such good staff working on the NHS, providing us with with amazing service. They are dedicated, take care of the patient and make sure the family are coping too. At present I have the most amazing team of District Nurses that come in to my home and give me injections, service my stoma/gastrostomy tube, change dressings, etc. They also look out for my nearest and dearest.

However for some there can be a time that everything is all set up and there is a spanner in the works and you need shipped off to hospital and you no longer get the home care you so wished for. In a snap decision one of most difficult decisions of your life has been literally taken out of your hands. What we have to remember is things happen for a reason and getting sent into hospital is most likely with best intentions.

When we make a decision to end our days in a hospice it’s a choice that certainly does not come lightly. Whilst you get fabulous care and are in a safe and secure environment, it’s not home. Although hospices have a much less clinical feel than hospitals you can’t quite move your pet in. The biggest problem at the moment is the waiting time to go in. Main reason being there just isn’t enough palliative care beds to go around. It’s heartbreaking but the practicality is that we are actually waiting on someone passing away to then offer a bed. In the UK we get used to getting our health care and this includes all our cancer treatments free of charge. All us human beans in UK take our health care for granted; go to the doctor and don’t think about the cost. Many people think more about putting money away vet bills for our pets or saving for a holiday than donating to a charity.

Hospices, such as Marie Cure and St Columba’s, home care nursing from Marie Curie and Macmillian are not NHS or big private hospitals, they are self financing. They are charities. Rely on donations and fundraising. They offer their services free to patients who need them, at times it may be respite care where a patient goes in for a few days then goes home, or the nurses go to a patient’s home and takes care of them; gives the family help with washing the patient, changing pyjamas, changing sheets, etc, and patient staying in hospice for life end care.

On thinking about the charities, I believe we need to try and chip in a tad if we can. Next time you are eating that McDonald’s and you are about to have a Mcflurry with it; what’s the cost for the ice cream? Couple of quid? Perhaps think about matching the couple of pounds in a donation, I definitely will.

I’m in my mid fifties and have known people very dear to me that have died by their own choosing at home, in hospital and in a hospice. All very well cared for, and I can see the benefits and down sides of all. For the person that is going to meet his Maker and for those that are left behind. Me? If I mange to get my wish I will not be at home and I will not be a burden on anyone. Let’s hope this works out.

The Essential District Nurse

Four years ago my house felt somewhat invaded with nursing staff in dark blue uniforms. Very competently carrying out essential duties. Strangers in my home fuelling me with anguish and fear. They came in every other day, assisted with my NG tube and did anything else I required. It took a while before I realised I really did benefit from my essential district nurse.

Four months in, and things were going amazing. I began to realise how much I need them. How valuable they are, not only in the physical nursing department, they are here emotionally and for my family too. The team look after me very well, if I have any sign of “going down hill” they are on the phone to dr or hospital in a flash. As was planned with my treatment plan, I went into hospital had surgery and had a gastrostomy tube fitted.

Five days later I had sepsis, spent 12 weeks in hospital. When I got home, everything was very difficult, and my goodness I was so grateful for the team of district nurses. Evelyn was the one that came the most. My skin on my tummy was red raw, I could hardly walk; to be honest everything felt like a mission. The once strangers dressed in blue had become my saviour. Nothing and I mean nothing was too much trouble. A rutland trolley was brought in to help me walk, my bed was fitted for a mattress elevator, and so much more. My tummy was awful, it bled, the skin kept falling off the dressings were soaked. No sooner were they on and they were drenched. I could see a determination in Evelyn’s eye, we are going to sort this out, she said to me. I so wanted to believe her. I was covered in dressings and looked like I had been shot. Every time the acids leaked out of the hole in my tummy and ran over the lacerations on my skin the pain was so intense. When she came in I was bent over almost falling to my knees trying to get back on to the sofa.

My nurse that became a dog with a bone didn’t stop until she got things ‘right’ for me. The correct barrier, a change in creams, additional creams and a new different dressing. All this every time they are in and what a difference.

For most folks that read my posts they will know I have two labradors, Buddy and Bella. Buddy is my special boy and Bella his wife. They love the nurses visits. As soon as the orange folder was laid out, on best behaviour both labs patiently waited for a nurse to arrive. They will sit perfectly while I get treated by the nurses. Once everything has been completed my baby labradors sit politely and get a dog treat. How happy they are. Tails wagging frantically.

December 2nd 2020 was a sad day in our household. Our ‘dog with a bone’ nurse retired. Evelyn has made a huge impression on us. She has more than helped me and always a willing ear, getting through my sepsis was one of the hardest things I have had to conquer in my life she helped me all the way. When I was in hospital with sepsis, Evelyn phoned the ward 3 times per week for the 12 weeks I was in to check up on my progress. From my husband to my granddaughter, she gave them the time of day, listened and spoke to them. Very often it was just at a time when they needed it most. This lovely nurse is now moving on to a time in her life when she should take some time selflessly for herself. Fingers crossed COVID restrictions will get better and she can get out and do all those wonderful things I wish for her in retirement. As a family unit we will miss nurse Evelyn. She went beyond her call of duty. She had a terrific memory, on sick days she would pick up the phone and ask a GP to come see me, rattle off my date of birth without looking at my folder. One day I smiled at her and asked if she knew my national insurance number; she grinned back and said now that would be telling. She bonded well with my family, was interested in neuroendocrine tumours and carcinoid syndrome. She supported greatly the wonderful support charity I have come to rely on The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust Evelyn participated in our tea party, enjoyed our fundraising music event for net cancer day. She made hundreds of Pom Pom balls to create ziggy zebra. She also was so generous when our youngest went into nursing got him a pile of books.

I know I am in good hands with the team she lead, the strangers in blue who have now became familiar ‘welcome visitors’ attending to my needs. Taking care of me and my gastrostomy, Lavita, administering my injections, doing my dressings, etc.


These hardworking nurses; predominantly now seen by Nicola and Maria make a big difference to my life. They brighten up my day, make me feel safe and secure. I trust them. If you are thinking of going into nursing or are in healthcare or nursing and thinking of working in the community, in particular going into district nursing. I can tell you how valuable and needed you would be. Walking into someone’s house for the first time isn’t always easy, just like when I had the insecurities of the first visits. A couple of visits in and it all gets so much easier. We are all scared of the unknown. That once stranger who enters my home helps alleviate any fear, and deals with more than you know.