Karen Murphy, chaplain at Weston Hospicecare and President of Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains (AHPCC), reviews the new edition of Life in a Hospice by Ann Richardson.
This is a gem of a book for anyone interested in palliative care and hospice work. There are many myths and preconceptions around what goes on inside the walls, many of them increase people’s anxiety and fear about contemplating death and dying.
Ann Richardson has taken a unique approach to this subject by sharing insights from a wide range of people who work in a palliative care setting. Their reflections are incredibly honest and insightful, as contributors share the joys and sorrows of their role. Anyone reading this collection of insights will gain a true picture of how those working in the setting bring a range of practical skills to the task in hand, but also bring themselves whole-heartedly, and often at personal cost.
There is a starkness in some of these reflections that represents the challenge of working with death every day, but if prospective patients were to read this, they would gain an assurance that those offering care are people of compassion and a deep sense of caring.
Hospices are unusual places in that they represent ‘thin places’ between life and death. People often have a view of what a building will be like that is at a great contrast from the reality. Ann’s presentation of such a variety of hospice life snap shots is a valuable resource for potential patients and their families, to give confidence in the support they will receive.
Staff and volunteers have reflected on their work with congruence and it is a tribute to Ann that they were prepared to speak about their emotions so freely. It is a unique collection of honest reflections and I commend Ann for bringing such a collection together to inform the public of the different roles with in the life of a hospice, but also to allow such a range of people a voice to share deeply held personal insights into these places which offer specialist palliative care.
Ann gives a picture of a hospice which could be representative of the many similar places that exist in this country, providing other hospices with a great resource to share with patients and staff alike.
Karen Murphy and Bob Whorton are the authors of Chaplaincy in Hospice and Palliative Care, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017