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Dying matters: Caring for the patient and their family

Cancer Relief Gibraltar is marking Dying Matters this week, a Hospice UK-led initiative that helps open up the conversation on death, dying and bereavement.

As part of this awareness campaign, the charity is sharing testimonials from its members of staff and service users on the hospice service it offers. Today’s testimonial is from Ray Osborne, Cancer Relief Hospice Outreach nurse.

Each day Chronicle readers will have the opportunity to learn more about the service and the services available when faced with a terminal illness.

The charity is also running a survey on the community’s attitudes towards death which is available on: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K5YNPCV

My name is Ray, I’m a Hospice outreach service registered nurse and I joined Cancer Relief in May 2020, just in the middle of the first lockdown. I have always been interested in palliative care but, up until recently, the opportunity had never presented itself for me to focus on this field although my roles have previously involved providing care at end of life. My work on a surgical unit meant that I have dealt directly with individuals being treated for cancer, but time limitations meant holistic care was difficult. Having worked with Cancer Relief, however, I realise just how much holistic support really improves the care provided at the end of someone’s life.

The feedback I, and the team, receive from relatives and patients about the support that we have provided is so rewarding. Death is a natural part of life, but we are often not prepared for it. Whether it be practically or emotionally, being able to support people during that most vulnerable time is very humbling.

Obviously, it has been more challenging during Covid with PPE (personal protective equipment such as gloves, aprons and surgical masks) and restrictions and sometimes the support has had to be via telephone to protect our patients and relatives. Regardless, though, sometimes just knowing someone is there can be all people need when experiencing end of life.

This has been a real learning point for me, personally. I have often been very task driven but now understand that there is so much more to providing support. There is power and comfort in stillness. From being able to sit and hold someone’s hand and listen to their story, to finding ways of helping them enjoy their favourite activities for the last time, my aim is to support them, mind, body and soul.

This could be with our range of complementary therapies, counselling or mindfulness for both patients and their families. We often forget how many different ways suffering can present itself, so it means a lot to me to be able to care for the patient and their family as a unit. I feel very privileged to have a role which allows me to focus on the patient and relatives as a whole because we only have one opportunity to get it right for those we care for most.

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