Caring over Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year but we know that for our patients and their families, it can be a daunting and isolating time, with some sources of support closed or reducing their hours over the festive period.

Caring over Christmas

At Rennie Grove Hospice Care we look after patients in their own homes 365 days per year. Last year, over the 12 days of Christmas we provided care to 455 patients, including 28 on Christmas Day alone.

Here, some of the nurses who will be working on Christmas Day 2022 reflect on what they expect and how they can support patients at this critical time.

Marina, High Wycombe

Marina will be working in High Wycombe and the surrounding areas, where she has covered many Christmas Day shifts in the past.

Nurse in purple uniform in front of a laptop with a phone in her hand

She says:

“I’ve been a Rennie Grove Hospice at Home nurse for around 10 years now and in that time I have worked many Christmas Days. The patients I have seen during those shifts really stick with me.

“I remember being called out to a family one Christmas Day where their loved one was very near the end of life. We sat together with Christmas music quietly playing in the background, they lit candles in the room, and the lights twinkled on the tree. It was a peaceful feeling and I was grateful I had time to support them.

“Our team covers a large area so any shift involves a lot of driving and around Christmas this can be particularly interesting due to the weather. With a very hilly patch to cover we’re lucky to have access to volunteer 4×4 drivers who can help us get to patients when it might otherwise be unsafe to drive.

“As long as the weather is fit, driving on Christmas morning is always lovely – the roads are so quiet. Then in the afternoon you see people out for post-lunch walks and children riding their new bikes!

“I have children of my own but they’re old enough to understand my job and how we need to provide a service every day. They tell me they’re proud of what I do and that I help other people. I have a few days off work between Christmas and New Year so we’ll have our main Christmas celebrations then.”

Mary, St Albans and Harpenden

Mary will be covering St Albans and Harpenden on Christmas Day. She says:

“Although I’ve worked many Christmas Days over the years as a nurse, this will be my first one as a Rennie Grove Hospice at Home nurse.

“I know from my team’s experience that it can often be a busy day. We try not to carry out routine visits on Christmas Day so we are free to visit patients as and when they need us. In order to manage this, we plan in advance to make sure our patients all have things they require, so planned visits aren’t needed that day.

“I’m happy to be taking my turn of working a Christmas Day shift as it is really important to be able to support patients and families to make every moment matter at this time of year.”

Catherine, St Albans and Harpenden

Mary’s colleague Catherine, who will work in the same areas, adds:

“I have worked on Christmas Day in the past and the patients I have visited on those occasions really stay with me. Christmas is meant to be a joyful time for families to spend together but if a loved one is nearing the end of their life it can be a very difficult time.

“With many services closed or operating at reduced capacity, families can feel unsure of where to turn. It is a privilege to be there for patients and families at this time so they know there is always someone there for them.

“I will celebrate Christmas with my own family on a different day and they all understand that it is worth sacrificing our day together, to make sure that patients and families facing a very difficult time can access the care they need.”

Fiona, Ridgeway area, Bucks

Fiona will be one of the nurses covering the Ridgeway area of Buckinghamshire this Christmas Day. She says:

“I always see it as my responsibility to try and spread a little cheer to the families we’re helping and to find the positives in what can be a very challenging situation. It’s a privilege to be able to support patients on what may be their last Christmas. Entering people’s homes on Christmas Day you can often smell lots of lovely cooking smells coming from the kitchen, and there are usually lots of loved ones around.”

Kirstie, Dacorum (Tring and Hemel)

When asked how she would celebrate with her own family, Kirstie, who will be covering the last shift in Dacorum, said:

“I have two children and they understand that there are people who need me, even on Christmas Day. They will spend the day with family so I know they’ll still have a lovely time, and I’ll get to see them on Christmas morning before my shift starts – which is always the best part!”

If you would like to help local people with life-limiting illnesses and their families get the support they need this Christmas, please consider supporting our Christmas care appeal here.

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