A retired Malvern businessman has called for more government money to fund hospices supporting patients to die at home, following ‘outstanding and exceptional’ care for his late wife.
Colin Clarke, of Hanley Swan, praised St Richard’s Hospice for pulling out all the stops to support him and his wife Sue, especially when he could no longer cope with caring for her during the last month of her life.
Mr Clarke, 73, and his wife Sue met in Broadway and had been married for 47 years before she died in her sleep at home in January this year. Mrs Clarke had celebrated her 70th birthday with a big party in Cornwall last June and was diagnosed with cancer soon after.
Mrs Clarke was referred to St Richard’s Hospice by her local Upton GP and quickly received a visit from St Richard’s Nurse Specialist Kate Smith.
“Kate was remarkable,” said Mr Clarke. Her knowledge and expertise of medication and treatments was excellent and she always worried about me too and was always enquiring what else St Richard’s could do for us.”
Mrs Clarke was admitted into the In-patient specialist palliative care unit at St Richard’s in Wildwood Drive, Worcester, on four occasions for short term treatment. “Amongst all the stress, it was a breath of fresh air,” said Mr Clarke, “Sue thought it was amazing”.
But his wife was determined to enjoy what was left of her life and wanted to be at home.
“I had been nursing my wife at home for some months, then it became extremely difficult to even lift her out of bed. But Kate, our St Richard’s Nurse Specialist came along to help us. We were amazed at her organisational skills and her ability to draw in the support we needed.
Suddenly we had four visits a day from different health carers, including the St Richard’s Hospice at Home team. They helped Sue to get washed and always made her as comfortable as possible. She loved them.”
He added, “Sue wanted to stay in our own bedroom and to die at home. She wanted our sons Giles and Tim to sleep alternately at the house as she became very ill and over the last seven days they took it in turns to stay at the house. Sue died in her sleep at home, exactly where she wanted to
be. But lots of people would like to die at home in this way but are not given the opportunity.”
“There are so many other people who don’t access the kind of support we had and would have to go into hospital, even though it’s not always the most appropriate place. The NHS is very good, but hospital is not always the best place for dying patients.”
“If the government wants to free up more beds then they need to get palliative patients out of the wards. They need to give hospices such as St Richard’s more funding so people can be cared for at home if that’s what they want.”
Mr Clarke was delighted that £1,161 was raised for St Richard’s from a collection at his wife’s funeral to be donated towards the charity’s care of patients and families in the future.
St Richard’s Hospice provides free specialist palliative care for patients living with life-threatening illnesses and supports their families. Each year the hospice team supports over 2,500 patients and family members in Worcestershire with compassion, kindness, dignity and respect.
Patients are cared for in Day Hospice, the 17-bed In-patient Unit or in their own homes by a specialist professional team as well as many trained volunteers.
In the In-patient Unit, specialist staff are on hand 24 hours a day to manage patients’ symptoms and where, if appropriate, patients may spend the last few days of life in comfort and dignity. St Richard’s is an independent charity and is grateful for all donations to help it to continue its work.