From the moor to the sea – caring for families across South Devon

Rowcroft’s Hospice at Home Team provides end-of-life care for people in their own homes across 300 square miles of South Devon, from the rugged hills of Dartmoor to the sandy beaches of the coast. Throughout the early summer months, one of Rowcroft’s Senior Healthcare Assistants, Sara Colley, took selfies to show how far and wide she travelled in her role, even in the midst of the global pandemic. Her ‘patch’ is a vast and challenging area, with dense traffic in the holiday periods and often snow and ice on the moors in the winter. In this blog, Sara tells us more about her role in caring for patients and families.

“The H@H team support and work alongside the family to enable their relative to spend their last days in their own home, as is their wish. We provide physical, spiritual and psychological support and ensure empathy, compassion, respect and kindness run through every aspect of our job. Skills in all areas of communication are essential. We need to give choices and help make informed decisions about what support is appropriate for each person, knowing that their needs will change frequently.

“The Covid 19 pandemic meant that our world changed overnight. Initially it was all very frightening, there was lots of uncertainty and concern and I worried that we would not be able to deliver our usual excellent service. Decisions regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety procedures changed daily, resulting in confusion, and there was a pressure to keep-up-to date with all the latest guidance and advice.

“There were a number of particular challenges facing our care teams. Families were understandably concerned about the number of people entering their homes; face masks made communication very awkward and difficult, particularly for patients with issues such as dementia or hearing impairments; other support services that affected our patients were impacted, such as GPs and pharmacies; and we were worried for our own health and for that of our families too. The one positive thing was the lack of traffic on the road and I loved the peace and quiet!

“Working as a Senior Healthcare Assistant with the Hospice at Home Team has been one of the highlights of my career. Being welcomed into a stranger’s home at such an emotional time is an honour. It is essential that we use all forms of communication to immediately assess the situation we are entering, as well as initially obtaining consent to stay and provide care and support. I have the luxury of time and I can provide excellence in end-of-life care. I can get to know people and gain their trust, carrying out the small tasks that make a difference and preparing the family for what they may expect to happen, thereby hopefully allaying some of their fears of the unknown. Symptom control is critical at the end of life, so it is important to observe and report as necessary. Sharing our knowledge and experience with carers is part of our role.

“Fundraising has been a huge challenge for Rowcroft, and I would like to say a massive thank you to every individual out there who has raised money, whatever amount, in order to help us to provide what I feel is a unique service – where we go above and beyond whenever possible because we are passionate about what we do.”

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