Crystal & Helen's story

“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."

When Crystal and her husband found out that their aunt, Helen (pictured), was terminally ill, their first thought was that they would like her to be cared for by the Iain Rennie nurses who had looked after Crystal’s mother-in-law so well in 1998. Here Crystal, who is a nurse herself and Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, tells us about Helen and their experience of the care provided by Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, part of Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

“As a family we had already had a great experience of the fabulous care provided by the Iain Rennie nurses when my mother-in-law passed away at home in 1998. She was beautifully cared for and the nurses were just fantastic in the care and the support they gave to the whole family.

“When we found out that Helen was ill with cancer, she was living on her own in Cornwall. It became clear that Helen would need help at the end of her life and we discussed with the potential to come and live with us for that care. The services Helen had received in the hospital and community in Cornwall had been superb but Helen lived on her own and she did want to be by herself in the last few weeks of her life as she became more dependent.

“We contacted our GP and explained Helen’s situation with the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home service in mind, even before we collected her from Cornwall. Our GP referred her immediately she arrived to the District Nursing service and a District Nursing sister came to carry out an assessment the very next day. The District Nurse listened to Helen’s wishes for her care and referred her to the appropriate services. Within three days the referral to the Iain Rennie nurses was complete and a nurse came to introduce herself to us, to assess Helen’s needs and to plan her care in accordance with Helen’s wishes.

“At this point nobody anticipated a quick decline but in fact Helen’s condition became critical within just a few days when she suffered a haemorrhage early one Sunday morning. I knew and understood Helen’s wishes and was adamant that she should not be admitted to hospital. We called the 24/7 Rennie Grove hospice at home emergency number and a nurse was with us really quickly.

“Helen was semi-conscious throughout her care that day but I remember feeling really pleased that she had already met the Iain Rennie nurse and was not being cared for by a total stranger. The nurse knew immediately what Helen needed and contacted the Out of Hours doctor to ask him to prescribe the medication she required for her pain and distress. Unfortunately, the doctor was not familiar with Helen’s case and initially refused to prescribe the medication. It was only after the Iain Rennie nurse had contacted her manager to ask her to speak to the doctor that he agreed to write the prescription.

“The nurse was so knowing about what was right for Helen and for us and she smoothed the path throughout the whole experience – even down to knowing which pharmacy to go to for the medication at midday on a Sunday.

“It was just so reassuring having her there to talk to and she was so respectful to Helen. The personal care given to Helen was second to none. She helped to wash her and get her comfortable and later a syringe driver was set up with the medication Helen needed to control the pain. She didn’t leave until she knew Helen was comfortable.

“Unfortunately, within a few hours Helen’s medication needed to be increased. Another Iain Rennie nurse returned to help with this and Helen passed away peacefully on Sunday evening with her family at her bedside.

“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.

“I am very grateful that we were able to keep Helen comfortable at home during her last hours rather than her have suffer the inevitable distress of a hospital admission. We all knew she was approaching the end of her life and I am so pleased that her final passing was in the peace of our home, just as she wanted, rather than an A&E department or a busy hospital ward.”

October 2014