Finding out a loved one has a terminal illness is a heartbreaking prospect but even in times of despair there are those who work tirelessly to lessen the burden on patients and their families.
Carole England, an auxiliary nurse at Oldham’s Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, is approaching her 19th year with the Royton-based organisation, having previously offered her time to Marie Curie night-sitting.
The 65-year-old carer started her working life in a bakery before changing career path and embarking on a caring job.
“It’s funny because I used to work in a bakery and confectionery, which I wasn’t enjoying and I just felt I had more to give,” Carole said.
“I told another employee that I’d had enough and so she said ‘Why don’t you try auxiliary work?’ – and that’s how it came about.”
Carole gets a great sense of satisfaction out of attending to patients’ needs including washing, bathing and dressing them.
“I enjoy the job very much,” the Manchester-born staff member added. “The patients seem very appreciative of what we do.
“Sometimes they will go out of their own way to buy you something as a thank you, but we aren’t allowed to accept individual gifts.
“You build up a relationship with the patients and we love to take care of them at the day hospice.”
The hospice opened in 1989 and honours the legacy of Dr John Kershaw, a general practitioner and medical officer of health.
Currently, there are 42 staff members and volunteers also contribute, while the hospice accommodates 12 inpatients and 15 day care places.
Carole, along with the team, ensures the place is treated as a second home for patients and their visitors.
“It is very important to treat the hospice as home-from-home, because many of the relatives don’t want to leave their loved ones at all,” she explained.
“With a loved one approaching the end of life, they feel something may happen as soon as they leave – so they like to stay.”
Part and parcel of a hospice is the unfortunate inevitability of patients passing away, but Carole insists courage is crucial on the job.
“A lot of people ask me how I manage to do the job, as they believe it must be really hard,” she said.
“Sometimes it is upsetting and I think the younger they are, the harder it is.
“But I love my job and you have to think about other things and what you do for that person – don’t let it get to you.
“You feel for the relatives because some of them take it very badly and lose a bit of control.
“We try our best to console the family members and make it easy as possible for them.”
Although patients spend a lot of their time in the hospice, Carole is keen to organise trips and outings to ensure they remain integrated within the community.
“It’s essential for patients to feel a part of the community – you don’t want them always waiting around for their family to visit,” she said.
“For those patients who are able to travel, we have taken them to places like the farmers’ market.
“Patients are able to go out, stay overnight at their own home or go and enjoy a weekend.”
And with the excellent services on offer there are people who want to give back by donating goods and services, but Carole admits that the hospice remains low key.
“There are a lot of people out there that don’t know much about us, but those who do believe our work is very good,” she said.
“The aim is to ensure patients are as comfortable as possible and they remain pain-free.”
Carole’s peers have previously acknowledged her compassionate contribution towards the hospice – and to show their appreciation they treated her to a day of indulgence.
“The hospice presented me with an award for being a carer and I ended up in a Rolls Royce to go for a meal!” Carole said.
Despite notching up an impressive 19 years at the hospice Carol shows no signs of slowing down just yet.
For more information about Dr Kershaw’s Hospice and the work they do visit http://www.drkershawshospice.org.uk/homepage.htm
Picture courtesy of Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, with thanks