People across the High Peak who are caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness are being urged to seek support.
Blythe House Hospicecare and Helen’s Trust provides support and advice to carers who’re looking after a relative or friend who may have an illness such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease.
The hospice is commemorating Carers Week (7-13 June), an annual campaign to ‘raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make.’
The charity hosts a monthly support group for carers, providing a safe and relaxed environment for local carers to share problems, concerns or experiences with the knowledgeable team and with others in a similar situation. Staff also provide one-to-one care and advice including complementary and talking therapies.
Louise Furmston (pictured below), community engagement lead nurse, explained: "Many family members do not see themselves as “carers” when they are living with someone who has a life-limiting illness. Their focus is supporting the person who is ill and they often do not acknowledge the impact upon themselves. They become absorbed in the role of caring, putting the needs of the person they are caring for above their own needs and well-being.
"Blythe House Hospicecare is here to support “the whole family,” offering a listening ear and exploring “what matters to them,” providing support and advice in relation to their needs."
Joy Stephenson’s husband, Chas, started to attend Blythe House following his diagnosis with a rare form of blood cancer.
Joy was offered carers support from the hospice, before Chas sadly died in January 2021. He received care from the Hospice at Home service, and died in the comfort of his own home.
Joy, from Hayfield, said: "The hospital consultant made the referral to Blythe House; and then followed almost two years of what I can only describe as an amazing and wonderful partnership between us and the marvellous staff at the hospice.
"One really good thing was the opportunity for him to spend some quality time in the company of other men and the chance for a good natter. Not only was Chas pampered, but my needs were also being cared for – a chance to talk about my worries and concerns, and the offer of complementary therapy, so I was able to have some relaxing pampering too. We very quickly came to realise that the whole ethos was to meet the needs of us both, and to anticipate when that help needed to be stepped up.
"I think the most difficult thing was when to accept the offer for that support to come directly into the home. Inviting strangers into your home to take over much of the caring role was hard. On the one hand, I felt I was abdicating responsibility and I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the other hand, I was becoming exhausted and realised that I was struggling to cope.
"I shouldn’t have worried; the carers were so experienced and sensitive to our needs and they became welcome friends and always seemed to know exactly what was needed. More importantly, I came to understand and welcome their input, especially when they always seemed to know the right time to step up the amount of care we needed; I never needed to ask.
"They delivered all this care with compassion, sheer hard work, friendship, love and, so often, much-needed good humour. Above all, they allowed Chas to maintain as much dignity as possible and to die at home surrounded by love with me and my daughter beside him."
More information about Blythe House and the support available can be found at www.blythehousehospice.org.uk/our-services.