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Wellbeing Classes Are Good For The Heart And Mind

Since starting seated exercise classes with hospice charity ellenor, 77-year-old Mavis Hollands has seen her life change for the better. Her physical health has improved, and her wellbeing has received a much-needed boost.

Mavis, who suffers from heart failure, said: “I was doing OK until Covid and lockdown. I think we all got used to being at home and doing nothing. Before that I was very active and wasn’t having any trouble with my heart, but I got in a bit of a rut and then I started to get worrying episodes where my blood pressure would drop seriously low and I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I think it was because I had become so inactive.”

Things changed for Mavis when she was put in touch with ellenor’s Wellbeing team following a referral by the heart specialist nurse at her local doctor’s surgery in the summer of 2022.

She said: “I was happy to try anything that might help me because at that point I wasn’t coping very well, so I thought I would give it a go. It has made such a big difference to my wellbeing, and I am able to move about so much more than I could before. As soon as I started attending the seated exercise classes I felt it was doing me the world of good. Although I feel tired afterwards, I think I am doing most of the exercises quite well now.”

Mavis is on the Heart Failure Pathway, an initiative being piloted by the NHS Kent and Medway CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group). As part of the programme she has also attended classes to help with her breathing and fatigue management and is particularly grateful to the hospice team for teaching her some relaxation and breathing techniques which help her achieve a more restful night’s sleep.

She said: “ellenor has given me more inspiration to try and do more than I was doing before. I might wake up on a Tuesday morning feeling I can’t be bothered to go, but I am always glad afterwards and feel it was worthwhile. What would I be doing otherwise? Sitting at home doing my knitting probably.”

Mavis has recommended the seated exercise class to a lot of people. You don’t have to be referred to take part, and there are other Wellbeing classes that are open to anyone in the community.

She said: “Everyone at ellenor is so helpful and the nurses are so lovely. It makes you want to keep fit and active into older age. Anyone who thinks they could benefit should come along and join in.”

The positive-thinking grandmother is just the sort of person the Heart Failure Pathway is designed to help. She first suffered a heart attack in 2004 and had a stent fitted.

She said:” After that I was fine for years, but during Covid I started having this raised blood pressure and feeling awful. I have also developed a problem with excessive heart beats.”

Thanks to a new type of beta blocker, Mavis is managing her condition, and the exercise classes at ellenor have also helped her to pace herself and taught her how to exercise safely and constructively.

She said: “I used to be one of those people that wanted to get things done straight away, but the exercises have taught me to pace myself. I used to clean the whole house, but now I do a few rooms then see how I feel.

 “People who come to the classes only need to do what they feel they are able to do. The exercises are sitting down so you are not going to get too out of breath. I have started to do some at home too, particularly if I get stiff ankles and knees because of my arthritis. I think you automatically start doing some of the movements you have learnt, sometimes without even realising.”

All of the classes run by ellenor’s Wellbeing Department are now held at The Manor Hotel, Gravesend, while a major building programme is carried out at the hospice, including a state of the art new Wellbeing centre.

Mavis, who enjoys spending time with her two children, Paul and Carol, and her grandchildren, has always lead an active life. She met husband Ray when she was 15 and he was 21, and later moved into Ray’s family home in Fawkham, where as well as bringing up their family and working, they had a large plot of land to tend. Mavis was a hairdresser, then a travelling sales rep and later a dinner lady and classroom assistant at her village school.

She said: “I always say you should live for today because no one knows what is going to happen to them. When I had that heart attack and they put in a stent they said I had four or five years to live, but I’m still here.”

Her husband, who had half of each lung removed following childhood pneumonia, also defied the medics.

She said: “People tried to warn me off, saying I would be made a widow early, but we loved each other. I just thought whatever time we had was worth having. In the end, we got to celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary!”

Mavis did spend the last six years of Ray’s life nursing him before his death in 2011, and that was when she first came into contact with hospice charity ellenor.

She said: “The nurses would come out and visit him at home and he also spent a bit of time staying in the hospice so I could have some respite. When he deid, the funeral donations went to ellenor.

“The hospice is one of the best causes you can give to because there are so many people being helped. There is such a nice group of people at ellenor and nothing ever seems too much trouble – and of course it’s a local charity.”