Since 2014, St Barnabas House has been going on the road to talk to people about dying, grief, ill health, end of life issues and wellbeing.
The Hospice Outreach Project (HOP) is a mobile vehicle that travels through Worthing and the surrounding West Sussex towns, with specialist staff offering information and advice in symptom management, as well as emotional, spiritual, psychological and bereavement support for patients and their loved ones.
The project runs themed months, often in conjunction with national awareness weeks. These have included volunteering, Dying Matters, advance care planning, wills, carers’ support and heart failure. Next month they will link in with the Hospice Care Week campaign for the first time.
Marcelle Palmer, Hospice Outreach and Schools Project Lead, explains that the themes often provide a starting point for people to talk about the issues that affect them.
“I recently had two women stop during dementia month to look at a knitted sensory toy donated to the hospice for patients with dementia. They were mother and daughter, and the daughter had a son with autism who [she said] would love the toy, so she wanted to buy it. I gave it to her and suggested that she give a donation at some point if she wanted to.”
“The conversation then changed to the fact that they were on their way to see her sister who has a terminal diagnosis and was too unwell to complete her chemotherapy. After further exploration they shared that she was in her 30s with three young children.”
“I was then able to discuss the benefits of a referral to the hospice and the services the patient, her children and the rest of the family would be able to access. I provided some leaflets and information about talking to the children. A few weeks later the mother popped onto the HOP again and shared that her daughter had recovered enough to go home, and that she had not broached the subject of the hospice or information for the children with her daughter, but that her grandson had loved the toy and she provided me with a beautiful photograph of him with it.”
“I think this is a good example of how a fairly superficial enquiry can change into a much deeper one. She had not used any of the information, but I felt satisfied that she had a better idea about how we work and how to access the services if necessary. She is also aware of how to find us if she needs more information at any time in the future.”
“As a post script to this story, when I contacted this lady to ask permission to use her story, she informed me that her daughter was being admitted for symptom management that day. When we met to discuss this article, she confirmed that having that initial conversation had provided information for all the family which reduced the anxiety around referral and admission to the hospice.”
The issues people raise are extremely varied, and can be about anything from how to get a sofa collected to deep and emotional conversations about bereavement.
“Some conversations are around referral criteria and hospice services, often re-framing the public’s perception of hospice work and dispelling some of the myths” Marcelle says. “Some are around symptoms, investigations and potential diagnosis. Fundraising offers and queries are common, we do not take any money but redirect them to the fundraising department. Grief and bereavement are very common.”
“We use the opportunity to open up conversations about death, dying, and advance planning when appropriate.”
For more information and to view timetables visit St Barnabas House Hospice Outreach Project