“Your care assistants took my fear away,” is the answer given by one woman when asked about St Christopher’s new Choose Home service.
The woman’s parent – who wanted to die at home – is one of 145 people supported by Choose Home since the pilot launched in October 2020. It covers an array of needs, from having a volunteer coming round to make a cup of tea, to a care assistant providing urgent personal care, for people who are expected to have two or three weeks left to live.
The project was launched after St Christopher’s found more than one third of people staying at the hospice were being admitted and dying within hours to three days.
”Choose Home helps people stay at home, in familiar and comfortable surroundings
“Most of those patients would have rather stayed at home so we looked at how we might keep them where they want to be,” Consultant Nurse, Jan Thirkettle, says.
“We started to notice we were having increasing numbers of referrals for frail elderly people” continues Jan. “These people didn’t need to be in a hospice but either lived alone or were very near to death and neither they nor their families were coping.
“It’s about keeping people who are dying at home, where that is their wish, at the end of their lives.”
The pilot scheme is currently being funded with an £84,000 grant from the Burdett Trust for Nursing and was launched with four part-time care assistants and 11 volunteers.
Patients are referred through St Christopher’s Community Teams when a person’s care needs are urgent and support is needed to fill the gaps of statutory care visits.
“If you become very ill on a Friday afternoon and you want to stay at home, but need some personal care or someone to do a bit of shopping for you, with statutory care you aren’t going to get that until Monday afternoon at the earliest, so that’s where we step in,” Jan says. “This means people aren’t transferred unnecessarily to a hospital or hospice. Instead we look at what people really need and how we can manage that need at home.”
One of the services provided by Choose Home is personal care, helping people remain independent.
At home support from St Christopher’s has previously been clinical but this is a shift to provide wide-ranging support, including respite for carers and training for family members in how they can care for their loved one at home.
“This gives people the practical know-how to manage end of life,” says Jan, “What we wanted was for it to be was more social, not to send a Doctor or a Nurse for absolutely everything.
Dying doesn’t need to be clinical.