Karen Turvey first heard of Katharine House when her mother Gillian needed palliative care. In the following years, the family also received the hospice’s help for Karen’s father-in-law Brian and mother-in-law Val. All three were supported by both the community team and the hospice ward.

Karen said: "Mum was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago. She lived with it for three years and had a lot of support needs and medical issues.

"Our Katharine House community nurse was really supportive. She helped my mum so much. A lot of it was pain relief as the cancer had spread to her bones and was causing a lot of issues. She made a big difference to my mum’s quality of life." 

A few years later, Karen’s father-in-law Brian was diagnosed with bowel cancer. 

"The community nurse for Brian was very good and actually often spent more time talking to Val, my mother-in-law, as she was the one that was caring for him and had all the questions. Brian spent most of the time asleep because that’s how his illness affected him. 

"We really appreciated the time taken by the staff to help us comprehend that Brian was slowly slipping away. My sister-in-law Pauline, who lives in Plymouth, says she remembers a nurse taking time with her in a quiet room before he passed. On another occasion, the nurse was very empathetic and consoling towards Pauline for not being there when he eventually passed, which certainly helped her deal with the guilt.  

"The pastoral support was great too. The complete multidisciplinary approach was fantastic with my father-in-law." 

Sadly, the family experienced even more heartache when Karen’s mother-in-law, Val, developed breast and liver cancer and the family once again turned to Katharine House. 

"The community nurse, Trish, was great because she could help with the medical jargon. My sister-in-law Pauline is a nurse in Plymouth and she wanted to know what was happening with her mum and had a lot of medical questions, which we struggled to answer but Trish was able to explain things directly to her in a way we couldn’t. 

"Trish was a great support, especially when she encouraged Val to go to Plymouth to visit Pauline for a week! She supported us all the way to make it happen."

"One of the most important and excellent things with Trish was her openness and transparency, encouraging my mother-in-Law to talk about her death and to consider all the things she wanted to do before it was too late and encouraging her and us to make them happen. She really helped my mother-in-law to be ready to go." 

"The nurses are all angels"

Karen said that the nurses who supported her family through their difficult times were all angels.  

“It meant everything to know there was someone there that could support them, and somewhere for the family to get support. Sometimes you don’t know who to go to for advice, or what you need to do.  

"The nurses were happy to steer you towards the right thing to do and that really helped. When you’re right in it, you get bogged down with all the medical jargon and you need someone to point you in the right direction. It doesn’t take a lot, just knowing someone is there to talk to and check you are doing all you can for your loved one.  

"It’s the practical as well as the emotional things. They can influence and make things happen. For example, if you need pain relief, they can help with this as it's their speciality. 

"They take the pressure off. It’s their speciality so, if a Katharine House nurse says they think something should be happening, a GP is going to respect their speciality and listen.  

"They help you understand what’s happening and what the next steps are. It’s so reassuring as everything is overwhelming. 

"Having someone to help with pain relief, as well as to have that support for the families … it’s invaluable. I don’t know how we would have managed it all on our own." 

All three members of the family visited Katharine House for respite care before they eventually died at the hospice.  

"The care they gave was amazing."

"The staff were so quiet and calm and good to them. It’s so fortunate that we had somewhere like Katharine House on our doorstep.

"My mum didn’t want to go to the hospice at first. She said, 'I’m not going there, you go there to die.' And I think that’s a general misconception. I think people see it as a negative place.  

"But when a family member goes into the hospice, it can really take the pressure off.

"The pressure is unbearable and they make it bearable."

"If a person’s death or illness is peaceful, I understand why they want to stay in their own home. But often it’s not like and that themselves and their family need help. We didn’t know how to help Mum and get her out of pain. It’s not how you want to remember someone.

"Brian came to the hospice a couple of times for respite and to get his medication settled. He wanted to die at home but eventually it became impossible because he lost all his muscle strength. He needed 24-hour care because he couldn’t move by himself. 

"Katharine House was the best place for him. At one point they provided a family room for my sister-in-law who had come up from Plymouth to see her dad. It meant that she and her mother could spend time staying with him when she knew that time was running out, which made a big difference to them all. 

"Val decided she wanted to be at the hospice when she died because that’s where her husband had been.  

"We had the pandemic when Val was at the hospice and we found that very difficult. We were unable to be there with her. Visiting was limited to one person and one visit per day. We were all very hands on when we were caring for her at home. There was always one of us there with her and to have to take a step back when she went into the hospice because of Covid was very hard. We went from seeing her every day to being restricted to visiting her every fourth or fifth day so that we could share the visiting between five family members.  

"It really was very difficult, a very trying time for all of us. The hospice did what they could and actually let two of us go in together towards the end, which was lovely as both Pauline and I were able to be with her when she passed." 

Outstanding care

Karen said that the care her family received from the hospice staff was outstanding. 

"They’re all just amazing. They’re so patient and so caring and supportive. Katharine House obviously looks for a certain type of person when they’re recruiting at the hospice, and they get them! 

"They care, and that caring approach makes such a difference. And that goes for everyone, from the nurses and the doctors to the people cleaning the rooms. I remember one time my mother started vomiting nonstop. I had my six-year-old daughter with me at the time and didn’t want her to have to watch her nanny being sick, so I told her to go to the playroom while I tried to stay calm for my mother. But my daughter was only six and nervous about going there on her own. A cleaning lady overheard and just dropped her cleaning and took her off to the playroom. She didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t her job, but she saw that I needed help and did what she had to do to make it better.  

"And the catering staff can turn their hand to anything. It’s proper food, and people can have pretty much anything they want. Plus, the garden is stunning. It was so lovely to be able to go and sit outside with your loved one, if they were able, in such a beautiful setting.  

"It’s not a hospital environment, it’s a home from home. The hospice allows family members to stay together so that they don’t feel like they have been taken away from their home, it’s keeping everyone together in a safe place."

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