Heidi is Martlets’ rehab clinical team lead and a specialist palliative care occupational therapist. She talks about the care Gordon received from the rehab team and also shares her hopes for the new hospice building.
“Gordon and this family were very special and they really connected with everyone who cared for them. We were all so touched by the courage Gordon showed in facing his illness and his mum Paula was so dedicated to caring for him. He had a wife and very young children so it was a tough time for all of them.
To begin with we visited Gordon at home to see how we could help with mobility aids and making his home environment safe for him. He had motor neurone disease (MND) and was very accepting of his condition right from the start which made it easy to plan his care. He faced it all with such dignity; he was a very philosophical character and so interesting to talk to.
The disease progressed very rapidly which was challenging, and he wanted to prioritise quality of life over longevity. So, we did what we could to give him the best quality of life we could during the time he had. We set up the family home with specialised equipment on the ground floor, as he was unable to do the stairs safely anymore. So, we provided an adjustable hospital bed, a riser/recliner chair, and other equipment which enabled him to be comfortable and safe. He wanted to stay at home and be as independent as possible for as long as he could.
Gordon also came into Martlets regularly for outpatient appointments. So, he got to know the Hospice and the staff really well. He would come to coffee mornings for patients and to our rehab gym. We helped him with some exercises to try and maintain his physical strength for as long as possible.
As the illness progressed, it became more difficult for Gordon to stay at home and he came into the Hospice as an inpatient for his end-of-life care. It was something he chose to do because he felt safe there, and his family would visit.
We have a specialist MND team at Martlets and every month we have a multidisciplinary meeting to discuss the care of our MND patients. We have around 10 to 20 patients with MND every year and we had a big influx post-COVID because there had been a delay in diagnoses. It is often younger people who are affected by MND; Gordon was in his late thirties, and it is hard on young families.
As clinical leads on the rehab team, my colleague Ruth and I can’t wait for the new hospice building and our brand new gym. It is all being built with easy access in mind for wheelchair users and to support patients with mobility issues. We have looked at the plans and it will be in the perfect location as it opens out to the gardens. That means it will be easy to work with patients outdoors as well as indoors and it opens up the possibilities of what we can do. It will be wonderful to have people come in through the doors again and to do one-to-one assessments in person, at the hospice. We will also be able to do group work which means we can offer a range of activities for more people. So, groups for breathlessness, fatigue, and anxiety management as well as exercise and health maintenance.
The new facilities will help us care for more patients, including those with terminal neurological conditions like Gordon. With the support of our community we can keep on caring for local families for many years to come and offer the very best care.”
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