A pioneer, a home: Pirkanmaa Hospice in Tampere, Finland

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Pirkanmaa Hospice is located within a forest in the city of Tampere, Finland.

Katja Mustonen, a nurse at the hospice, came to receive us. On Tuesdays they have day centre activities with the homecare patients and their family followed by lunch and activities such as sauna, music and dance.

Katja proudly informed us that Pirkanmaa Hospice is a pioneer in the Nordic countries. Since its establishment in 1988, the hospice has been serving terminally ill people who are now in their last days.

Most of the people they serve have a diagnosis of cancer, since the hospice is funded by the Finnish Hospice Foundation for Cancer Patients (Syöpäpotilaiden Hoitokotisäätiö). These people are referred by hospitals or local health care centres. The Finnish Health Care System takes care of expenses if the patients are registered members of the Finnish Social Security System.

The hospice also offers training to healthcare students and professionals. They train nurses on how to manage pain and other symptoms. “I believe that one learns more from experience in this profession,” says Katja.

Every nurse has between one and three patients. Although the primary role of a nurse is to regularly assess the condition of the patient through charting symptoms and taking care of medications, they also give counselling and support to the family members.

Even after someone has died, the hospice staff continue to support the family members. Katja mentions that sometimes the family needs more attention than the patients. Many of the patients somehow accept their death while the family members cannot imagine their life without their loved ones. “Two days are most sensitive for every patient and the family, the day they come to the hospice and the day the patient dies,” adds Katja.

The hospice also provides a home care service. This service supports people to cope with their illness at their own home for as long as possible. Nurses visit regularly to treat pain and other symptoms, and offer the patients and their relatives a chance to talk and unload their feelings about facing an incurable illness and inevitable death. 

If the person wishes, arrangements are made for them to die at home. If home care does not work for them, the patients can come to the hospice any time. The hospice has a hotline available around the clock. If there is any problem; the patients can call the hospice whenever they need to.

While we were chatting sitting at a table in a cozy cafeteria at the hospice, a pretty ginger cat went by. We looked at Katja with curiosity. She told us that this is Niksu, the hospice cat. Niksu is an important member of this hospice. Everybody enjoys his presence, especially the children.

After finishing our coffee, Katja took us on a tour of the hospice. We followed her through the bright and spacious halls where patients were sitting down and talking. We greeted them and they greeted us back with a smile.

We went on to some patients’ rooms. These room had either one or two beds and each room had a television set and a bathroom. Most rooms had a balcony and a kitchenette.

It is possible for the relatives to spend the night with the patient in all the rooms. The hospice kitchen and the dining area were big and neat. Katja told us that there is no specific time for the patients to have their meals. Here they serve the meals whenever and wherever the patients want. “It helps them feel like they are at home,” she says.

I noticed that the hospice was full of beautiful antique furniture. Katja told us that some patients and their relatives donate them to the hospice. There was also a sauna which each patient could use once a week.  

In the second floor there was a small chapel. Although the hospice is not faith based, many of the patients are religious and the chapel is meant for them. Some patients even ask for a priest and they call one from the local church.

On the ground floor, there was an interesting place: a second hand shop! It was full of old and new things, furniture, clothes and trinkets. This charity shop sells donated items and the revenue collected is used for hospice activities. It is the best place to shop if you are fond of retro and vintage style!

At last we went out to the garden which was beautiful. Maintained by a volunteer who is a professional gardener. It was skilfully designed using an old boat and rustic vases. The flowers were in full bloom and there were trees in abundance. It was truly a peaceful place where the patients could stroll if able to, if not; they could just enjoy the view from the balcony.

Pirkanmaa Hospice holds three central values: the uniqueness of human life, symptom relief as the basis of good care, and a homelike environment that creates a safe feeling. I could see during the visit that they abide by their values.

Katja had also said: “nobody wants to die, but death is inevitable. Therefore when I die, I would like to die in a place like this.” After the chat and the tour, I understood why.

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