Bereavements cookery group

14th April 2015

Delicious smells and the sounds of gentle laughter and clattering of pots and pans fill the kitchen at St Richard’s Hospice in Wildwood Drive, Worcester on a Thursday evening.

But it’s not the professional catering staff busy making nourishing meals for patients: instead the room is a hive of activity with a new Bereavement Cookery group.

There are six members of the new group, all of whom have been referred to St Richard’s Hospice for bereavement support after a partner had recently died.

The men and women, aged between 53 and 78, are also supported in a number of other ways, either through in bereavement groups or one to one counselling. Some of the group had partners who were patients of St Richard’s, while others have been helped by Bereavement Service South Worcestershire for anyone in the area bereaved by a sudden death.

Sarah Popplestone-Helm, head of Family Support at St Richard’s spotted the need for a cookery group to give extra practical and social support.  A men’s cookery group was successfully piloted last year and the new mixed group was launched last month.

Mrs Helm said, “The new cookery group is really appreciated by those taking part, adding a new dimension to all the other support work we offer. Those participating enjoy getting together, learning new cookery skills or rekindling old ones with guidance from our chef and bereavement counsellor Jenny Brown.”

The evening session is led by hospice chef Kevin Ratcliffe who has previously measured out all the ingredients for each participant. Kevin runs through the menu for the evening and sets the group off on the first task, making beef and mushroom pie.

He gently leads the group through the preparations, from the best way to chop onions to how to make sauces and explaining cooking equipment. He’s on hand to answer culinary questions such as “why do some potatoes go green” and others about temperatures and quantities. The group chatter and help each other with advice as they busily chop and cook.

Sheila Harrington from Droitwich said the group had given her back her confidence in the kitchen. “I hadn’t been able to cook because I had lost confidence and  psychologically I found it quite difficult. But Kevin is brilliant and he picked up immediately that I was stressed about what I was doing. When Kevin picks up on that he positions himself nearby to help. Now I don’t get het up about coming in and I’ve tried a couple of things at home as well.”

She added, “From week one as a group we have a bond, and that’s really helpful too: I look forward to seeing people coming in now.”

Ann Ridley from Worcester added, “My husband was the chef and he was fantastic. All my life really he did all the cooking, I have had to learn obviously, whilst he was poorly and since.  This is done in a very professional way –  – I struggled to even chop and peel an onion –  but now I do it the way Kevin showed us the first week and it’s just so easy to know how to do things.”

For John Ford from Pershore, coming to the group was also about building up his confidence in the kitchen where his wife had done all the cooking. “It’s about giving you the self -confidence so instead of relying on rubbish food you are trying to learn to use proper ingredients and cook it correctly. The group  turns cooking from something really hard to something that’s fun.”

Stan Bassett from Droitwich said he had never done anything practical in the kitchen other than open a tin of rice pudding so it was a steep learning curve. “I’m learning to do things which otherwise I would be reluctant to do at home, “ he said, “It does give you more confidence and having expert help from Kevin makes a big difference.”

During the evening the group has made their individual pies, topped with puff pastry and hand-made chips before Kevin shows them how to make chocolate mousse for dessert.  At the end of the night the group moves into the next door dining room to sit down and enjoy their home cooked meal together.

Sarah Helm said, “As well as learning cooking skills, the group finds mutual emotional support. Research and our own experience has shown that talking to others in a similar situation really helps. They understand how it feels to be bereaved and very often continue to support each other after our group sessions have finished.”

To see the group at work, watch a video on the St Richard’s Hospice YouTube channel

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

During this challenging time, we are doing our utmost to continue caring for the patients and loved ones who need us most.

The way we work has been adapted, with many of our services delivered remotely – such as over the phone, or by video call. And we are working closely with other health care professionals in Worcestershire to share knowledge and expertise at this time.

Latest changes at St Richard’s Hospice

  • In-patient Unit: It is with great sadness that due to stringent infection control measures, we are required to restrict visiting and cannot offer the comprehensive level of service in the way we usually do. However, we will still do our utmost to make sure that each patient and loved one is given the compassion and dignity they deserve. To help families stay in touch we are encouraging virtual visiting using technology such as video calls and apps. This will be discussed and explained to patients and families on admission and we can help provide access to equipment in the hospice. In addition, the IPU nursing team will liaise with each patient and family to arrange short daily visits from the patient's closest loved one and compassionate visiting, as appropriate. Read the full details here.
  • Community Nursing: Community services continue to operate, with a mixture of hands-on care and remote support.
  • Living Well and Family Support Services: Switched to virtual model, with care given remotely over the phone or via video call.
  • Shops: All 19 of our shops and warehouse are temporarily closed. Please do not leave donations outside our shops, as we are unable to collect them at this time.
  • Fundraising: All hospice organised events until the end of August have been postponed. If you wish to support us, please donate to our Resilience Fund.

Please do not visit St Richard’s Hospice if you have a high temperature or new, continuous cough. If you have these symptoms, please stay at home and self-isolate for seven days. See NHS advice on coronavirus.

Thank you for your support and understanding at this difficult time.