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ellenor charity: caring at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 12:38 10 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 10 December 2018

Mascot Ellie joins Father Christmas and ellenor staff including Linda Coffey (third from left) and Tanya Ring (far right) (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Mascot Ellie joins Father Christmas and ellenor staff including Linda Coffey (third from left) and Tanya Ring (far right) (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Kent Life looks at the contribution ellenor makes to patient care at Christmas, in the hospice and through its community palliative care teams

We’ve all got them. Older members of our family, friendship and community groups whose remaining Christmases might not be in double figures. Factor in that some are also away from home and the festive season can seem the most challenging time of the year, not the most wonderful.

“We don’t count the days, we make the days count,” says senior nurse Tanya Ring, speaking to me at ellenor hospice in Gravesend.

I’m here to find out about the contribution Kent’s only charity to provide hospice care for all ages in their place of choice makes to patient care at Christmas, both in the hospice and through its community palliative care teams.

Staff from ellenor join the team at Withens residential care home for Christmas lunch (photo: Manu Palomeque)Staff from ellenor join the team at Withens residential care home for Christmas lunch (photo: Manu Palomeque)

A relative newcomer to the team Tanya, who completed a post-grad certificate in end-of-life care in 2015 and wanted to put it to good use, tells me: “I thought I knew palliative care, having done it in the community for many years, but coming to ellenor it’s taken on a completely new meaning; I’ve learnt so much. This is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”

As a nurse of 33 years, 20 of them working for Community Rapid Response, that’s quite a statement. But looking at the brightly decorated, buzzy public areas and seeing how smiley and welcoming everyone is, with none of those hushed whispers you might expect from a hospice, you can see why Tanya loves it here.

“Christmas can be emotional and difficult,” she admits. “My own three children have come to expect that I’m away, but here we try to make it as special as we can.

“We have lots of decorations, the nurses dress up, there’s a day therapy party and we’ve got some rather special entertainment planned, which we hope we can pull off! Everyone is so friendly, and this is a happy environment, despite the circumstances around why we are all here,” she adds.

A festive toast from staff and patients gathered in the welcoming reception area at ellenor, Gravesend (photo: Manu Palomeque)A festive toast from staff and patients gathered in the welcoming reception area at ellenor, Gravesend (photo: Manu Palomeque)

“ellenor gives me the time to care, not just for the patient but for the extended family too. As Dame Cicely Saunders [founder of the hospice movement and its holistic approach to dying] said ‘how people die remains in the memory of those who live on.’

“So if you can give someone a brilliant, dignified death you can help dispel those myths around dying for the family left behind.”

Linda Coffey, Head of Adult Community Services, agrees. She previously worked for the NHS with Kent Community Foundation Trust, managing their care community services, and in her three years at ellenor has rebuilt and re-skilled the community team and carried out valuable work with GP practices on their palliative care registers.

“We are getting referrals from GPs a lot earlier now than we used to,” she explains. “It’s beneficial to the patient because we’re not coming in at the last minute. We ask GPs the magic question: would you be surprised if this person died in the next few weeks? This has not only prompted the earlier referrals but also allowed us to build a relationship with that patient and their families.

“We’ve developed a leaflet for GPs to hand out which describes the referral to ellenor as being because they have ‘a condition which can’t be cured’, not that they need palliative care – and we get very few patients who turn down our input, Linda adds.

“Our opening conversation is always to find out their main concerns, what they would like from us. We can then create an individual package based on each patient’s needs and wishes.”

Linda and her team have also trained 65 ambulance service crew members to date in the signs to look out for if someone is dying. This has also increased referrals, with paramedics now contacting ellenor directly with any concerns.

“Our aim is to stop people ending up in A&E at the end of their life. After all, most people don’t want to die in hospital.”

It’s time to move up the road to Withens Nursing Home in Southfleet, run by Ranc Care Homes. Here ellenor staff are helping the nursing home for the elderly and frail with its Christmas lunch. Withens is one of the 28 residential homes (plus 16 nursing homes) ellenor works with and general manager Sally Briggs is delighted with the extra support.

“They do training with us in end of life care, pain control, symptom management and most recently verification of death – which means we no longer have to call

a GP out to perform this service.

“They are the experts at this stage of life and death. It’s boosted morale among the staff and extended our team because we embrace everything ellenor can teach us.” u

Get in touch


Coldharbour Road, Gravesend DA11 7HQ

Follow @ellenorcharity

Withens Nursing Home

Hook Green Road, Southfleeet, near Gravesend DA13 9NY

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