In July 2021 after feeling unwell, Kayley's grandad Brian was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he had three months to live. Kayley kindly shared his story with us.

"When my grandad Brian was diagnosed, this came as a huge shock to our family, especially as my grandad had not long before taught himself to walk again following a stroke, and in 2019 survived a horrific accident, which doctors wouldn’t believe he would. Naively I thought my grandad would live forever and it was extremely difficult to accept that he would not.

"Following his diagnosis there was a lot of confusion and uncertainty, and as a family we were trying to process what was happening but didn’t have any idea of what to expect or what the next three months would look like.

"Katharine House got in touch with my grandparents, and they were introduced to Clinical Nurse specialist Trish. Trish immediately came out to my grandad to assess his situation and his needs and discuss a care plan. My grandad made it very clear from the outset that he wished to remain at home throughout his illness and this where he wanted to die too.

"Following this, my mum still had questions, so she contacted Trish and she invited my mum to the hospice to speak with her. Trish spoke to my mum with honesty and clarity and helped her understand what was happening and what we could expect in the months ahead. Knowing that support from the community nursing team was available and accessible gave my mum and nan reassurance and confidence in navigating this difficult time.

"Three months later and my grandad was pushing on. I expected nothing less, of course he was, he was going to live forever. However, at the end of November he started to deteriorate, and things changed. My grandad was still adamant he wished to remain at home so my family spoke with Trish again, who swiftly organised a hospital bed that we could set up downstairs in my grandparent’s house.

"It was extremely important to my nan that she was able to care for my grandad. After 60 years of marriage, she had looked after him most of her life so wasn’t going to stop now. Having the bed at home enabled my nan to continue to care for him, managing his symptoms and keeping him doing the things he liked to do, such as watching horse racing and seeing his family. Being downstairs at home meant his family could come and go and we could all sit around, drink tea and help my grandad put his bets on. He could listen to us chat and laugh and make jokes: my grandad was the funniest man, and his motto was 'always look on the bright side of life.'

"Trish also bridged the gap between my grandparents and the GP, meaning that instead of spending precious hours discussing my grandad’s situation and waiting in long telephone queues we could use that time to spend time together as a family. Alleviating some of the stress of an already emotional situation.

"As his illness progressed, more questions surfaced. Trish came back out to my grandad to ensure he was still comfortable at home and that my nan had everything she needed to continue caring for him as she had been doing so brilliantly for so long. All the time the community team provided the support for my grandad to be cared for as he wished by who he wished and kept reassuring him the hospice was there should he ever need them. Trish was transparent with the likelihood that my grandad now had days to short weeks. I was never prepared for my grandad’s death but knowing what to expect was strangely comforting.

"The support Trish gave my family was immeasurable. She provided my grandad with the option of staying at home, providing the tools that enabled my nan to continue caring for him with always making it clear the hospice was there to support them. My grandad was the strongest and bravest man I have ever known, he couldn’t control what was happening to him and this time he couldn’t survive, but what he could control was the choice as to where he wanted to die and without the support of the community nurse team this may not have been possible.

"When my grandad passed away, a huge hole was left in our lives. Following his passing a card arrived from Trish to my nan with her condolences for her loss. She recognised my grandad’s humour (a huge part of who he was) and that my nan was extraordinary for caring for him so well, enabling him to carry out his wish of dying at home.

"This card shone a small light in what was the darkest of times."

"It is the small things like this that make a hospice unique. It is the care and the consideration. The thought to the family even after the loved one has passed.

"How a person passes can have an impact on how we remember them. My grandad passed peacefully at home, as he wanted with my nan by his side. Without the fantastic community nursing team that may not have been possible, and we are truly grateful.

"My mum said, 'It is not until you have to go through something like this that you fully understand how important the Community Palliative Care Team are. They provide so much more than symptom control. Their support and kindness and accessibility are something that we should not take for granted, it is so important this service continues to help families in the future who need these services.'"

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