HOSPICE workers say providing socially-distant palliative care during the pandemic hasn’t been easy but an investment in new technology has been a huge boost.
Talking through technology and using “creative opportunities” has allowed Havens Hospice to continue to provide a level of respite and support for patients and families relying on care in lockdown.
Little Havens has a dedicated music therapist, Ruth Ellam, who usually runs group and individual sessions within the hospice.
Since lockdown, Ruth has been running live sessions from her own home and recording themed videos for families who can use sensory props they may have around the house.
One child benefitting from these sessions is Jimmy Burch, who will turn three years old in July. He has a brain injury following a febrile convulsion at six months old, and has been visiting Little Havens for a year, taking part in the social and music therapies available.
Mum Claire, 35, from Shoebury, said: “Although Jimmy is registered blind, we have noticed that he is starting to track objects and different stimulus. Luckily, he has really good hearing so adores noisy toys, music and instruments. That’s why the Sensory Storytime sessions at Little Havens are great for us, so we’re glad we’ve been able to continue this online.”
Jimmy isn’t technically classed as ‘vulnerable’ but it would be serious if he caught coronavirus because a fever makes his seizures more severe. The family is shielding at home.
“For me, the online music therapy is a nice start to the day. It breaks up our routine and is something different to look forward to. I get the chance to socialise a little bit, interacting with people who are in the same position as us. Even just seeing everyone else on the screen makes me feel supported.
“Jimmy loves these sessions, playing with the musical instruments and the repetition of songs. When he recognises a tune, he chuckles and laughs. He’s very responsive to this type of therapy.
“Because each session is different, the story is published beforehand so we have the chance to get prepared and gather up the instruments and household items we need.
“Ruth will tell the story and sing songs, referring to the sensory items to use too.”
Ruth has had support and training in ‘Online Music Therapy’ from Jessie’s Fund, a charity that has pioneered the use of music therapy in children’s hospices across the UK.
She added: “Music therapy is not something that we had done online before lockdown, so it has been a steep learning curve.
There are lots of ways in which doing music therapy ‘virtually’ is more challenging – it feels strange to have everyone on ‘mute’ when we are doing our group sessions!
“It is incredibly joyous to look at the screen and see everyone joining in with the sing-alongs and our ‘Sensory and Music Story’ sessions. I feel so privileged to be able to do this work from home, and to still interact and engage with our children and families through music.
It feels even more important at the present time.”