A woman whose partner was cared for by St Clare Hospice has shared her story in the hope that more people from the LGBTQ+ community will not be afraid to access the specialist care and support that every person deserves at the end of life.
Equity of care is one of the core objectives of St Clare’s 2022+ Strategy to ensure that no one misses out on vital palliative care services through fear of discrimination or a history of negative experiences by making sure its specialist support is truly inclusive and meets the needs of all patients.
Ruth Silverstone’s partner Tracy was first referred to St Clare by her oncology nurse after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2012.
During the course of her illness, she spent two stays on the Inpatient Unit in Harlow to help manage the pain and other symptoms of her cancer and was also cared for by the Hospice at Home team in the final weeks of her life before her death in May 2015.
Speaking during Hospice Care Week (Oct 10-14), a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the value of hospice care, Ruth said that throughout their experience with St Clare the couple were treated with dignity and respect.
“As a gay couple we felt completely accepted at St Clare,” she said. “What was so nice was I didn’t need to even have a discussion about it, all the staff referred to me as the next of kin, as the person who would make the main decisions. I found consistently with St Clare that every member of staff said ‘Yes, we can make that happen’.”
“If you ask any gay person, the ideal response is no response. You want to be recognised, you want equality of access, but without it being extremely unusual or having the sense that people are making special adjustments for you. And we didn’t feel any of that; it was the perfect fit.”
Since Tracy’s death, Ruth has found that maintaining a meaningful connection with the Hospice helps to keep her memory alive. She became a Compassionate Neighbour in 2018 and joined the pastoral support team in 2021 to offer comfort to other families going through a similar experience.
“This is a positive story, but I still think people need to know that your gay partner who is dying is going to be given dignity, the same as anyone else, and the living partner will also be treated with dignity.”
Sarah Thompson, St Clare Hospice CEO said, “The story of Tracy’s care at St Clare is an important one to tell, because all too often LGBTQ+ people don’t see other people like themselves in hospice stories and therefore can’t imagine to how they might be treated should they or their partner need care for a terminal illness.
Hospice Care Week seeks to shine a light on the work of hospices across the UK and we are pleased to be working with those communities who could benefit from our services but whom we are not currently reaching, such as the LGBTQ+ community in West Essex. I’d like to thank Ruth for sharing the story of her and Tracy’s care as part of this important work.”
Photo 1: (Left to right) Tracy and Ruth Silverstone
St Clare Hospice is a charity providing specialist palliative care for people living with terminal or life- limiting illnesses across West Essex and East Herts border.
St Clare, designated a University of Cambridge teaching hospice in 2018, has continually developed its clinical practices with an Inpatient Unit, extensive community palliative care team, a Wellbeing hub and an award winning bereavement service, which sits within the Patient and Family Support Team. In 2004, St Clare committed to working with its partners by expanding clinical education provision with a view to improving professional knowledge and confidence in delivering palliative care in a variety of settings. This St Clare Conference is the culmination of continuing partnerships and education initiatives.
St Clare care for patients and their families, providing physical, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual support, and ensuring they have timely access to skilled, compassionate and sensitive care in a place of their choice. Our services are free of charge to those who need our care, but cost around £5 million a year to run. With limited NHS funding we need to fundraise the majority of this each year through donations and other voluntary sources.
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