18 November, 2020
Bob Morley spent Christmas in hospital last year, missed his grandson’s wedding and has not met his first great grandchild. He is one of more than 350 Harbour Hospice patients who will be in our care this Christmas with a simple wish of enjoying the comforts of home and family, creating memories and special moments with the time he has left.
This Christmas, New Zealanders will reflect on a year like no other. For patients living with a life-limiting illness and their families, 2020 has been especially challenging; missing significant life milestones and celebrations due to travel restrictions, coping with isolation, limited ‘bubbles’ of support and anxiety around receiving safe physical and emotional care.
There’s no place like home
Bob’s Christmas wish will seem simple to most, but for him and others living with a progressive, incurable illness, it’s the only gift that matters. He wants nothing more than to be at home with family, enjoying good food and creating memories.
Bob suffers from multiple health problems caused by an antibiotic-resistant infection attacking his bladder, aorta, oesophagus, spine and bronchus. He also has Parkinson’s Disease.
Last year Bob was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve after five falls in one week. Susan, son Marc and daughter-in-law Debbie ditched their Christmas plans and rushed to be with him.
Hospital staff had decorated the wards with an Alice in Wonderland theme, but Bob wasn’t conscious to appreciate their efforts and the day was far from merry.
When Bob left hospital in early January the District Nurses referred him to Harbour Hospice, and he has avoided further hospital admissions ever since. This is a relief not only for Bob, but also for Susan, who in the seven years of his illness has spent many nights dozing in a chair beside his hospital bed.
Gaining confidence through care
With support from Hospice, Susan has become more relaxed and confident when caring for Bob at home. “For a long time, weekends and public holidays really concerned me because the doctors’ surgeries weren’t open,” she says. “Having Hospice available on the phone or at home if we need it is a godsend.”
Although Bob is mobile, he can only walk short distances. A former officer in the Royal Navy, he’s frustrated to no longer be physically active and also recognises how stressful it is for Susan to be continually on alert.
Respite allows crucial selfcare
Bob spends every Tuesday at Hospice where he can attend the Open Doors patient support programme, nap in a private bedroom and sit in the lounge or garden, with a trained volunteer on hand and nurses on call.
This is a regular respite for Susan, who uses the time for shopping and personal appointments, and to attend the fortnightly Carers’ Support Programme which helps her feel less alone. “It’s comforting to know others are facing similar struggles,” she says.
Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings meant we had to suspend our support programmes and day respite in Alert Levels 4 and 3, but our care continued in other ways, with the strength of our services across all communities benefiting patients wherever they live. Bob took advantage of this by staying for a week in one of our Inpatient Units during Level 4, and again in later months.
Most significantly, these respite stays serve as crucial selfcare for Susan, allowing her to relax, catch up on sleep, meet up with friends and tackle jobs around the house. “I soon realised that if I didn’t look after myself, I wouldn’t be able to care for my husband.”
Eat, laugh and be merry
For Bob, respite stays are a chance to savour Hospice’s exceptional hospitality, with staff ‘spoiling him rotten’ with roast meals and lovingly made pies with mountains of ice cream, Bob’s favourite dessert. “I came home fatter than I went in,” he laughs.
Everyone deserves a special Christmas meal and Hospice chefs take extra care to create bespoke festive feasts that acknowledge the spirit of the season.
Wherever patients call ‘home’, Hospice will be there this Christmas. For some, that care and comfort will be found in our Inpatient Units while for others, like Bob, creating final memories at home is what matters most.
Your gift today will allow us to be there for local patients this festive season, giving them moments to cherish with the people they love.
The financial impact of Covid-19 continues to be significant and your support has never been so critical. If there was ever a time to donate to ensure the future of Hospice care in your community, now is that time.