Hospice care wraps its arms around not just the patient but the whole family.
Lynn Brown first heard about The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice when her sister Tracey McHugh was a patient in 2000.
Lynn's sister Tracey
Diagnosed with cervical cancer, Tracey was a patient in the ward and only 34 when she died.“Mum thought it would be a good idea to take Tracey home" but then Tracey said, "I’m happy here because they can get to my pain right away,’” remembers Lynn.
“Tracey was a bubbly character and I didn’t know much about the hospice before she was a patient. It was such a reassuring place. I did know eventually that Tracey was going to pass away, I felt she got a lot of comfort from being in the hospice."
“When we went to see her, it was good because her friends were all there and it made it cheerier because she was chatting to them. It wasn’t such a scary place after all. There wasn’t a lot of support for patients her age at that time. I know that will be different in the new hospice.”
It was 14 years later when Lynn’s dad Eddie McHugh became a patient, after many years of fundraising for the hospice in Tracey’s name. “I think he was hiding a lot of the pain he was in but I know he was in the right place because his pain relief could be managed better than at home,” says Lynn. “After all the fundraising he had done for the hospice, being a patient himself was really difficult.”
Lynn with her husband Myles and dad
It was at this point that Lynn turned to the hospice herself for help as she was struggling to cope. “I found it very emotional. I thought I was going to be able to cope but I knew some of the signs and knew it wasn’t good,” she says. “The hospice was great, they got me a counsellor right away. That was great, she reassured me and I got emotional support, which is what I really needed, although I didn’t realise that at the time.”
A year later, when her husband Myles Brown was 48 and diagnosed with lung cancer, the hospice was there again for Lynn and her family. “I went again for counselling and the counsellor said to me that I wasn’t asking about myself, I was asking about my husband,” she remembers. “I felt I didn’t explore all the avenues possible with my sister and again with my dad as time was limited."
"I wanted to do right by my husband, to let him know what was open to him at the hospice and if he wanted to use the services available, or if he didn’t then that was OK too. A palliative care nurse came out and spoke to him a couple of times and mentioned day services. He said he didn’t know if it was for him but would give it a try anyway."
“On his first visit to day services, a volunteer came in with a patient and they started chatting about football. Myles was a Partick Thistle fan and he met a volunteer who had a season ticket and they started talking about that. After Christmas he was supposed to meet friends but cancelled as he was going to day services at the hospice. Myles must have found this very beneficial.”
Myles wanted to spend his final days at home but ended up going back into hospital as he had trouble breathing.
“The consultant from the hospice had spoken to Myles the week before he passed away and he was trying to give him the option of being admitted to the hospice but Myles was adamant he wanted to be at home. By the time he was back in the hospital, we asked about the hospice but he was too ill to be moved. It would be good for patients to have the hospice available if they are unable to stay at home.”
Since Myles died, Lynn attended a drop-in bereavement group at the hospice, which has now finished and found it a great comfort, especially speaking to the hospice chaplain Rev Leslie Edge.
“We’re now planning to take our group forward and move on, with help from the hospice. I have a lot of friends and family but not everyone has the same social outlet. It’s important to be able to get together and share our experiences with people who understand exactly what we’ve been through.”