“You get the most wonderful feeling when you go to the Hospice,” says Cliff, one of our Living Well patients, and Janet, his wife of 66 years, agrees. “It’s a warm, cheerful, caring, happy place. You come away with a warm glow.”
Cliff served in the Army for 35 years, in the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), who are responsible for maintaining and repairing Army equipment.
“I served in Germany, Hong Kong and Aden; we were lucky to see a bit of the world at the government’s expense! I was always a very fit and active person, and enjoyed playing football, cricket and squash. As I was a serving soldier, it meant I was kept fit and healthy. I never smoked, so it was quite a shock to be diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) about 10 years ago. This was then followed by heart problems, after I had a heart attack. But although I was living with these health conditions, my life didn’t change very much to start with. Janet and I had a motor home and we travelled here in the UK and abroad. We enjoyed walking and exploring, and didn’t really think about what might be in store for us with regards to my health.”
As well as travelling, Cliff and Janet enjoyed dancing and were members of a sequence and old time dancing club. “We went three times a week – that kept us fit! But then Covid arrived. Luckily we escaped it, but my health started to decline fairly rapidly nonetheless, and continued to do so over the next two years. In the end I didn’t know myself anymore. It was frightening.”
Cliff’s Respiratory team offered to refer him to Phyllis Tuckwell. “That was a surprise. Janet and I had volunteered in the Phyllis Tuckwell shop in Aldershot for 13 years, so we knew a bit about the charity, but I must admit when I heard that my first thought was ‘that’s my lot, then’ – I thought you go there to die. How wrong I was! From the minute you walk into the reception at the Hospice you are greeted with smiling, cheery faces. There’s no doom and gloom anywhere!”
Cliff was referred to our Living Well team and joined our Living Well with Illness programme. Our Living Well team cares for patients who are living everyday life with an advanced illness, helping them to cope with their symptoms and remain as independent as possible. The team comprises nurses, health care assistants, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, doctors, complementary therapists, patient and family advisors, and our Pastoral Care team.
“They put so much effort into the Living Well sessions. I really enjoy the different experiences which are offered there. At each session there’s something different to do. I also enjoy meeting other people in a similar situation; it’s made me assess my life in a different way.”
Cliff and Janet were also offered psychological support, to help them cope emotionally with Cliff’s illness. “Our meetings with Liz the psychologist made such a difference to both of us. Talking about our fears and problems made us realise that life can still go on, just at a slower pace. Our buckets are half-full – not half-empty as we had thought!”
Our Occupational Therapy (OT) team have also supported Cliff, helping him to maintain as much independence as possible and manage daily activities. The team can supply patients with equipment such as perching stools for the kitchen, for patients to sit on whilst preparing meals, and shower stools. They can also help patients to adapt their home environment to make it easier to manage, and teach them strategies to help manage symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue, optimising their independence and improving their quality of life.
“The OT team have helped me tremendously. I’ve gone from thinking ‘I can’t do that’ to ‘yes I can!’ They’ve got lots of gadgets that can help you. The nursing staff are amazing too, there on the end of the phone if you need them. Things have got so bad at times that we have had to ring them, and we’ve really appreciated those kind, calm nurses who have answered our calls when we’ve been at the end of our tether, especially at night or at the weekend. Dr Helen has been particularly wonderful; her calm, practical advice to us has been invaluable. She has organised appointments and medication for me, and most of all she’s given us the confidence to realise that it’s not the end just yet! No, there’s definitely no doom and gloom at Phyllis Tuckwell!
Everyday we need to raise over £25,000 to provide our services free of charge to our patients and their families. Please make a donation today to support the important work of Phyllis Tuckwell.