A lifeline away from home

All of our patients attending the Day Centre have a life-limiting illness and struggle on a daily basis with their symptoms. It can be very challenging to manage alone while services in the community can be extremely difficult to access.

In the last 10 years, the number of individuals who live alone has increased by 16%, and this is even higher among people over the age of 65. Our Day Centre provides patients with a much needed opportunity to leave their houses and come to a safe space where they can be supported and cared for in a respectful manner.

“The patients have got a one-stop-shop here for medication, therapy, physio, and social work. So instead of having to navigate the labyrinth of services such as trying to get a GP appointment, we can give them everything,” says Sue Hutton, Day Care Services Manager.

Eddie is an 87 year old Day Centre patient who has been receiving treatment for prostate cancer for the last 5 years. He worked as a Trade Union Representative at the Houses of Parliament for a long time before leaving to become a studio assistant at the BBC. He first came into the IPU after a bad fall.

“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer about five years ago, and for a while I was an inpatient, then Peter approached me and asked if I wanted to start coming to the Day Centre two days a week.”

Eddie requires regular checks because, like many patients, he is at a high risk for falls and is quite accident prone, which means that injuries constantly have to be managed.  He is well known throughout the Day Centre as the kind and respectful Irishman who, with a twinkle in his eye, asks for a glass of red wine with his hot lunch.

He is among those patients who would be unable to leave the house at all if it weren’t for the Day Centre and our ambulance service. It means that this might be the only time when a healthcare professional can check in on his well-being. And, since the Day Centre provides so many activities, these health checks can be done without the patients feeling like they’re being assessed.

Recent studies have suggested that loneliness increases the likelihood of premature mortality by 26%. Isolation and loneliness are particularly common problems among our ageing population and the Day Centre provides a vital service in reducing both. Most our patients live alone and 40% of them use wheelchairs.

Our free ambulance service ensures they can get to the Day Centre and not have to worry about the journey or its cost. It makes it easier for the patients and allows us to help more people who might be living with physical or neurological conditions.

“Before I was diagnosed I used to walk six miles a day around Regent’s Park, now I am basically bed-bound and I can barely leave my house,” says Eddie.  “I live alone, because my wife passed away 12 years ago from renal failure. She was cared for by the Hospice as well.

“I’d be housebound seven days a week if it weren’t for the Day Centre and the Hospice. The other five days a week, I just sit at home and watch television.”

Our aim is to empower people with the most effective self-management strategies, promoting wellbeing and independence. We offer a diverse range of patients – often with very different illnesses – a safe space to bring their anxieties and symptoms without judgement.  More than half the patients that the Day Centre help are diagnosed with cancer in some form and many have multiple conditions.

Treatment is done on a holistic basis, allowing us to care for all aspects of a patient’s health. The ‘Wellbeing Group’ practises meditation, arts and crafts and mindfulness and patients can choose from a range of activities not offered by the NHS, from art therapy to reflexology.

“Coming here is the highlight of my week. The ambulance picks me up in the morning and helps me to leave my house and I can spend time with my friends,” says Eddie.

“I have loads that I get to do. I get to do exercise classes, and get a massage, and to talk to my friends, not to mention the art classes. You know, I’d never done any art before I came here and now I’m an artist. They put my art up on the walls!.”

Eddie continues, “I just love every moment I spend here, and I have so much admiration for the nurses and the volunteers. They think of everything, they even gave me a shopping cart with wheels so I could go to the corner store on my days off and have a little independence.”

Eddie attends an exercise class twice a week which helps to improve mobility and circulation. He also receives weekly massages to alleviate any pain he may be feeling.

We also try to provide support to every aspect of a patient’s life if they attend our services, and the social team, which works in close proximity to our Day Services, has helped Eddie to get his taxi card and maintains regular contact to make sure that he is receiving all his benefits.

Unlike other hospice day services, we do not limit patients to a 12-week support programme. Eddie has been attending for nearly 4 years now. Patients can have confidence that they can get help when they need it from St John’s.  This is incredibly important because it ensures that there is some continuity at a time of such turmoil.  It also means that when the time comes, the patient will be well known by all the staff and vice-versa.

Eddie says, “You know, my father died the day before his 90th birthday, and I have always been determined to reach 90. I think with the Hospice, I’ll be able to do it.”

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