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Hospice At Home Is A Lifeline For Elderly Couple

Richard and Daphne have been married for 62 years and “adore” each other, but life in older age has become a challenge. Richard has vascular dementia, angina and mobility problems and Daphne, despite her own health issues, has become his carer. She would find it impossible to cope without the support of their loving family and the Hospice at Home service offered by ellenor.

When Richard’s health severely deteriorated, Daphne struggled to get the right support.

She said: “His care was so expensive, and I really didn’t know how we could afford it.”

ellenor works hand in hand with GPs and community nurses and life turned around when Daphne’s doctor connected her with the charity’s dedicated Hospice at Home team. Staff quickly organised Fast Track care, with carers visiting three times a day and providing four nights of care each week, all free of charge.

Daphne, 85, said: “They helped me get all sorts of help I didn’t know you could get. I didn’t even know I could get things like incontinence pads without paying for them.”

Ninety per cent of ellenor’s patients receive Hospice at Home care. It gives them access to an entire range of therapies, wellbeing sessions and specialist care services.

The team will first assess the needs of the patient and their family. Maybe they will need palliative care advice, symptom management, advance care planning or support at end of life.

Daphne and her family have experienced the team’s expertise at first hand. The couple’s first application for NHS-funded continuing healthcare was turned down, but after Daphne fell and badly hurt her back, ellenor helped the couple apply again – and this time they were successful.

Daphne said: “Now we have continuing care we have the ellenor carers less, but they still ring every few weeks to see how we are getting on, and I know I can ring them any time.”

The couple have a very close and supportive family network with eldest daughter Beverley, a nurse practitioner, living nearby. But it gives Daphne extra peace of mind to know she can contact ellenor any time of the day or night on their crisis support line.

She said: “I am still Richard’s carer 24 hours a day. The carers come in and bed bath him in the morning and check on him at lunch time and in the evening, but I feed Richard and do everything for him apart from change his pads. If he sleeps in the day, I am doing the washing or tidying around.

“But I know that if I put myself under strain, then I’m no help to Richard. We have been married 62 years and we have been so lucky with our marriage. We adore each other and I want to do these things and look after him. I don’t want anyone else feeding him. He’s happy and he relies on me. He still tells me every day that he loves me, and I can’t ask for more.”

Richard, who is 88 and bedbound, had an aortic valve replacement 11 years ago and wears a pacemaker. His health problems are complex – he also has COPD, a large hiatus hernia and a benign cyst on the brain. He was diagnosed with dementia in February 2022.

Daphne said: “I wasn’t really surprised when he got the diagnosis as he was getting more confused and forgetful. He has days when he is very confused, and sometimes he also gets angry – he would never have been like that before.”

Daphne has her own health struggles; she has osteoporosis in her lower spine and is in remission from polymyalgia, an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness. She also wears hearing aids and wouldn’t hear Richard if he fell out of his specially adapted bed, which is downstairs. So, the three nights a week when they do not have a night-time carer, she sleeps downstairs to be near him.

Although Richard is too frail to sit up unaided or feed himself, he needs a bed with sides to stop him falling out or hurting himself.

“He often asks why he is in a hospital bed and that is a difficult one,” said Daphne. “With all the changes we have had to make, sometimes it feels like our home isn’t our home anymore.”

Daphne has two faces, one for her husband and the other for when she goes upstairs and is alone.

“I get good days and bad days,” she said. “All I can do is put a big smile on my face for Richard, and when I’m alone upstairs I can have a cry.”

Richard has also been helped by ellenor’s Wellbeing team, where he has received counselling.

Daphne said: “The counsellor there is lovely. She always talks to me either before or after Richard. She’s been a big help and she still rings me every few weeks to see how we are doing.”

Daphne would like to continue caring for her husband at home for as long as possible – something they discussed in the earlier days of his illness. She is also “realistic” and gets comfort from knowing ellenor will be with her every step of the way whether caring for Richard at home or on the ward at the hospice in Northfleet. The couple’s wishes along with their health and wellbeing will always be paramount to the ellenor staff.

Richard’s death was beautiful, he died peacefully at home, with his wife and daughters – Daphne, Richards wife.