Care through the Decades

As we mark 30 years of caring for patients and families in Herts and Bucks, we look back at the impact our care has had on some of our patients and their families:

30 years ago – the Rennie Family

Moira Rennie, wife of our very first hospice at home patient reflects on the care given to her husband Iain and their family.

"It was in the Spring of 1985 that I contacted a Hospice Nurse friend for advice. There was no more treatment planned for Iain and we had both decided that under those circumstances, he would come home.

"After consultation with our GP, the Neurosurgeon in Oxford and with advice from the Nurse already involved with Hospice care, Iain came home from hospital.

"Our dining room became Iain's room, overlooking the garden. Next door to the kitchen, he was nearby all the family goings on, hearing all the chat from our two sons, aged eight and 11, when they came home from school. Iain was able to once again be 'Dad at home'. He inspected his young son before he set off to cub camp and also helped with the reading homework. The next ten weeks of precious time together could only have happened with the round the clock nursing support provided by Mary, Margaret, Maureen, Thelma and Daphne. Iain's opinions and choices were always considered and I am very thankful he was given such courtesy at this difficult time.

"These original five nurses who agreed to provide cover, care and support were quite exceptional. Highly qualified and trained in palliative care, it was very reassuring to be able to call on one of them at any time for advice and help on symptom control. Over time, they increased their cover and support to meet Iain's requirements eventually providing and overnight service. The sensitivity, compassion and kindness shown to our family meant the nurses were a gentle steadying presence and greatly helped us all. We were so fortunate to have these capable women in our world.

"As a family, we are all immensely proud of what this service has developed into and that the Iain Rennie nurses today are continuing to provide that model of care into the future."

20 years ago – the Ferrier Family

Charles Ferrier tells us how attending and being part of the Day Hospice in its early days was a huge help to his wife Kay, one of the very first patients to use the new building.

"Kay lived with a terminal illness for 10 years and first accessed the support of the organisation when it was called the Hospice Care Team operating in the United Reform Church in St Albans.

"When the Macmillan Runcie Day Hospice opened in 1994 it was both a sanctuary and a challenge for Kay. Originally trained as a nurse, she retrained as an art teacher after a back injury and even though she was a patient herself, she wanted to do what she could to help others.

"Kay was always delighted and happy to go to the Day Hospice - it was just perfect for her. Even with her illness, she always loved community and wanted to be with people. She gave and gained so much from being with others in a similar situation and especially with her background in nursing and art she had the gift of encouraging and supporting other patients in the art and creative sessions. She was very matter of fact about her illness but like the other patients appreciated the nursing care and practical support that was offered. She made some lovely friends and although she was very aware of what was happening to her, this was a very positive and happy period in her life.

"Our children and I always appreciated that she found a sanctuary at Grove House. We could see that she was happy and felt needed and that was so lovely. I retired early so we could spend more time together and also at that time became heavily involved in the Day Hospice, continuing to volunteer even after she died. I was a volunteer driver for 15 years and also a handyman in the early days.

"I am in remission from cancer myself and whilst I am pleased that I don’t feel that I need the support of Grove House at this moment, it is very reassuring to know that it is there if I do. It has definitely played a big part in our lives."

10 years ago – Anne and David Coles

David describes how Hospice at Home care helped him fulfil his wife Anne’s wish to die at home.

"I had looked after my mother at home in 1980 before the days of Hospice at Home care and it was a nightmare. So when Anne was diagnosed with cancer and told me that she wanted to be cared for at home, I was pretty nervous.

"But with the help of Iain Rennie Hospice at Home the difference was incredible. Caring for someone you love at home until the end is one of the most traumatic events in your life and there is no doubt in my mind that I couldn’t have looked after Anne at home on my own without the wonderful support of the Iain Rennie nurses.

"I knew that no matter what time of the day or night I could phone and talk to someone and that they would come if I needed them to. This combination of practical care, reassurance and being able to talk to people was absolutely invaluable.

"As her illness progressed, the nurses just did more. Without this help Anne would not have been able to stay at home and I am so grateful to them. I feel passionately that this care and support should be available to everyone and I now volunteer to help the charity in any way I can. I have made so many friends through volunteering in fundraising and more recently as a Family Support Service volunteer too. It is wonderful that I can give back to the charity yet still gain so much from it in so many ways."

Care today

Alec Penny cared for his wife Sheila for seven years after she was diagnosed with lung cancer:

"Although I was aware of the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home charity shops, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when the nurses arrived to help care for Sheila. To my surprise and pleasure I found out quickly how valuable that care would be. The nurses who visited soon became like one of the family and each time they came they would talk to me giving me the benefit of their expertise before sitting and talking to Sheila.

"It was like a close relative visiting. They spoke to her in a laid back and informal way and were so in touch with Sheila and how she was feeling and that was really important to both of us."

Fiona Wright is a patient at Grove House and was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 10 years in October 2013:

"When I found I had cancer again I discovered Grove House Day Hospice. It is absolutely brilliant. You can have conversations there that would be difficult anywhere else.

"It is just heartening to go there and it makes you feel better. You have medical checks every week, so they pick things up quickly, the nurses are wonderful.

"Perhaps just as important is the fact that I’ve made some good friends there with people who are in similar situations to me. It’s great to be able to talk to people who really understand what you’re going through."

Crystal Oldman’s Aunt, Helen’s condition became critical one Sunday morning and she called the Rennie Grove out-of-hours line for help.

"I am full of praise for the service provided by Rennie Grove. The nurses who helped us that day were so skilled and so reassuring and supportive of the whole family, particularly my son who had never seen anyone so ill before.

"I can honestly say that the Hospice at Home service is brilliant. As a community nurse and the Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which focuses on nursing in the home, I know what good looks like."

With rising population figures and the fact that the number of over 75s is predicted to double in the next 30 years, the support of our local community will be vital if we are to continue caring for local patients and families.

Click here if you would like to make a one-off contribution or become a regular giver.