Read our 2019 blogs, which appeared in the Berwick Advertiser and Northumberland Gazette every fortnight. The editorial space was kindly donated by the newspapers in support of promoting our clinical services.

"We at the Northumberland Gazette and Berwick Advertiser were delighted to help when HospiceCare North Northumberland asked if we would publish a column highlighting its valuable work. The charity is such an important part of our community and is highly regarded by so many of our readers and advertisers. It is a pleasure to offer our support."   Anna Smith


23rd May 2019

Today I’m writing from my desk at HospiceCare’s new Alnwick premises, Greensfield House whilst looking out of the window, which is a joy. For the last seven years I’ve worked in a small attic room at Castleside House with my desk facing a wall.  A small thing, perhaps, but it’s only now that I have the window, that I realise how much nicer my working day has become. Having a view whilst working in the office, makes me feel more connected to the outside world.

Albert Einstein captures what I mean: “A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is like a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Excerpt from one of his letters, published in the New York Post (November 28, 1972).

Talk of mindfulness is everywhere these days.  But what actually is it and how could it help you? Basically, mindfulness can help you to feel less overwhelmed by stress and help you to think and feel more positively about your experiences (especially stressful ones). The knock on of this is that it  helps reduce levels of anxiety and depression. , It does take effort and work to develop mindfulness skills and time to practise them – but the benefits are worth it. HospiceCare is planning to incorporate some mindfulness sessions as part of our wider therapeutic programme, for the benefit of local people in North Northumberland. Our first mindfulness session will be in  July at our Wellbeing Centre in Berwick, with a second planned at our new building, Greensfield House in Alnwick., Do get in touch with our nursing team if you would like to join our first session, or would like more information: telephone 01665 606515 or email: nursingteam@hospicecare-nn.org.uk

Research shows that choir singing improves health, happiness and improves social wellbeing and, we are excited to announce that we are forming a HospiceCare Community Choir.  We would love to hear from anyone in our community who might like to join our community choir, or is able to help with it. Keep checking our website for further announcements: www.hospicecare-nn.org.uk.

With National Volunteer Week just around the corner (1st-7th June), we want to pay homage to our amazing team of HospiceCare volunteers, who support all areas of the charity: clinical, administration, fundraising, marketing and retail. To date we have around 180 active volunteers, including our Board of Trustees. They save us around £170,000 a year in the hours they donate. Put simply, we could not exist without their dedicated, committed and loyal support - our volunteers are truly one our greatest assets and we always welcome new members to join the team.  In particular, with launch of our Information & Advice Hub at Alnwick, we are looking for volunteers who can support this and others who can work in our new café at Greensfield House. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact our Central Support Manager, Kelly Burton, T. 01665 606515 or email Kelly: kburton@hospicecare-nn.org.uk – we would love to hear from you.

Phew! So many great things happening and lots to do, so right now I’m going to take a moment to look out of my new window, breathe slowly and enjoy the stunning view. Until next time, take care of yourself. Julie   

25th April 2019

When I was growing up the word ‘dementia’ did not exist in my vocabulary or that of my parents, neighbours or friends.  However, fifty or so years later, it’s now a word most of us hear almost every day.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK (over 40,000 of those are under 65), with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. Startlingly, during this year, someone will develop dementia every three minutes.

Recognising that local people living with a diagnosis of advanced dementia need support, HospiceCare employed an Admiral Nurse – the very first for North Northumberland. Betty Lucas, our Admiral Nurse, is a specialist dementia nurse who works with and supports families and carers.  Betty works closely with the HospiceCare nursing team, which allows her to refer a patient with advanced dementia who requires end-of-life care into our Hospice at Home services.

Since Betty’s appointment she has had over 36 new referrals from local families seeking support for a loved one who has an advanced dementia diagnosis.  One lady had been caring for her bed-bound mum for over a year with no support. The poor daughter was totally exhausted and. one of the first things Betty was able to do was to provide respite care to enable her to take some much-needed time for herself. 

Statistics also show that 70% of people in care homes have some form of dementia. Two years ago, HospiceCare embarked on a ground-breaking programme to deliver dementia training to staff working in residential care homes across North Northumberland.  Since the launch of our training programme, nine out of our 20 care homes have completed this training – we hope the rest will be completed within the next two years.

The feedback we have received from

care home staff has been tremendous. Allison Moore, Care Home Manager, Heatherdale, Broomhill Alnwick  said, “We have always been really good at providing end of life care, but the training has reassured us that we are doing the right things.”

Moira Simpson, Care Home Manager, Tweed View, Berwick said, “Following the training we have two key members of staff who link with HospiceCare. This enables us to have an ongoing relationship with HospiceCare and also link into with their palliative care services." ​

Reflecting on how life has changed since the 1950s I have to accept that dementia is now a fact of life and it’s incredibly reassuring to know that HospiceCare is right here on our doorstep providing care where and when it’s needed and that we can, if we wish, remain at home at the end of our life surrounded by our families, friends and all those who are important to us. And that’s why trustees, staff and volunteers at HospiceCare continue to strive to deliver, free of any charge, the best nursing care and support to people living with a life-limiting illness where and when they want it – because life and death matter. Until next time, be kind to yourself.  Julie

11th April 2019

I often hear the expression ‘they are so brave’ when people talk about someone living with a life-limiting illness. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the word brave as ‘ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.’  For me, brave is a word used to describe someone who has a choice to do something such as jumping into deep water to rescue a drowning animal, completing a zip wire challenge when scared of heights, or going into a burning building to rescue someone – that’s brave!

The word ‘brave’ is meant to evoke positivity at an unimaginably difficult time in someone's life, but from my own experience of family and friends living with a life-limiting diagnosis that’s the last thing they feel.  What they do experience are feelings of being vulnerable, frightened and apprehensive of what’s to come. It’s these thoughts, fears and feelings that can often be too distressing to share with a loved one, because talking about death or dying can be incredibly uncomfortable.

The HospiceCare nursing team are specially trained and highly skilled in having such conversations and offering support where and when it’s needed. For someone who has a terminal illness talking about death can be very helpful at any stage of their illness.

For those people living with a life-limiting condition, our monthly Information & Advice Hub drop-in service at Berwick, offers an opportunity to get free practical, emotional, social and financial support for either themselves or a loved one.

The Hub is open the first Thursday of every month from 10am-1pm for people wishing to get help immediately or make an appointment with one of the Healthcare providers. The Hub offers a wide range of local support services from organisations such as: HospiceCare, Berwick Cancer Cars, P.A.L.S (NHS Patient Advice & Liaison Service), Macmillan Cancer Support, Macmillan Benefits Advice and Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The service is confidential, no booking necessary and completely free of charge - just drop-in! 

Our Information & Advice Hub will be extended to Alnwick later in the year and is part of longer term plans to further develop our clinical services, which I will be able to share with you soon.

I’m delighted to announce the exciting news that we have appointed Paul Jones-King as HospiceCare’s new Chief Executive Officer.  Paul, a highly qualified nurse and manager, joined us on  1st April 2019 bringing a wealth of experience from the health service and the hospice sector. Paul said, “I’m excited to be joining the HospiceCare team to work in an innovative way to further develop their already established and vital community service across North Northumberland.” You can be sure that the new clinical projects we are planning, will have the heart of our community in mind. Until next time, be kind to yourself. Julie.

28th March 2019

One of the greatest loves of my work is delivering a HospiceCare talk to a local community group. Talking is a favourite passion of mine and I can talk about the work of HospiceCare until the cows come home, as people who meet me know too well!

Over the last couple of years I’ve delivered many HospiceCare talks to local organisations such as the Rotary, WI, Inner Wheel, U3A, Probus and over 60s groups. I realised very quickly that no matter how many magazines we distribute, or how many times we put a ‘post’ on Facebook, there’s nothing quite so powerful as meeting with people face-to-face.  Without doubt, my HospiceCare talks always finish with someone in the room saying ‘I thought you had beds’ or  ‘you’ve filled in quite a few gaps’ or ‘I had no idea this is what you do” Another surprise for people is learning that you can contact HospiceCare directly, without the need of a referral from a GP or healthcare professional.

I’m constantly reminded through my work, how fortunate we are to have HospiceCare’s Hospice at Home in North Northumberland. Statistics show that most people would rather be at home, surrounded by their family and friends at the end of their life, rather than in Hospital. 70% of people would prefer to die at home – (Dying Matters March 2017).

Another vital service HospiceCare delivers is an incredible free bereavement support service. There’s no waiting list and the support is available for as long as the individual needs it. I can say ‘incredible’ with all honesty, because I received the most wonderful and professional bereavement support from HospiceCare after the loss of my partner a couple of years ago. Looking back now, I know for sure, that I wouldn’t have got through without their support. I was given the time and space to grieve in a place that felt safe and comforting, allowing me to work through my overwhelming sadness. I never felt judged and was constantly reassured that I was talking to someone who really understood the journey of grief, which those who have experienced it will know, is a long and often very lonely one.  It was a tough period of my life for sure, but I’m here today living proof that with the right support at the right time, bereavement doesn’t mean the end of life for us loved ones left behind.

As awareness grows of HospiceCare’s work in North Northumberland, we have seen an increased demand for our nursing services over the last couple of years. To support that demand we have a small dedicated fundraising team who work tirelessly to ensure we generate the income required to enable HospiceCare to continue to deliver our free clinical services. This year, to meet this demand, we must raise over £700,000. The NHS contributes around £40,000 but the rest comes from fundraising, donations and legacies.

We can’t pretend it’s an easy job! It often involves long hours and endless cups of coffee to keep us going, but my word seeing the difference HospiceCare can make to someone’s life – and death, makes it a rewarding one.  Until next time, be kind to yourself.  Julie       

 14th March 2019 

I’ve always been comfortable talking about death and dying with friends and family. As I’ve grown older and lost people that I’ve dearly loved, I try and encourage others to have these conversations that are often seen as sensitive, difficult or scary.  We only have one chance to get it right and - despite the initial discomfort of such conversations - talking about death will not make it happen tomorrow!

At HospiceCare we encourage people to make an Advanced Care Plan. This can be an important step towards making sure that, at the appropriate time, the care, support and medical treatment that you or a loved one, receives reflects your wishes. Losing the ability to make decisions for yourself can happen unexpectedly and thinking about your wishes can take time, so it’s best to begin talking as early as possible.

 Our Hospice at Home nursing team encourages families to make an Advanced Care Plan to ensure that our nurses can support the family’s wishes at the end of their loved one’s life.

My mum (who’s 80) and I continue to have open discussions about her wishes about her death, which have definitely got easier the more we talk about it. Whilst the ‘child’ in me doesn’t ever want my mum to die  - who does?  I do want to ensure Mum gets her wishes granted –because I see it as the last physical act of love I can give her.  As for me, my wishes have always been to have my ashes filled with pink sparkles (biodegradable of course) and released from a microlight aircraft, flying low over the Alnmouth bay at sunset. As they tumble, the sky will be filled with sparkles – my final goodbye gift.  Do let me know if you have already planned your own special way of saying ‘goodbye’.  Perhaps together, we can help raise the importance of having that BIG conversation and removing the taboo of talking about death and dying.

Here in the office, it’s the time of year when I’m busy writing the next issue of our HospiceCare magazine, Hospice Happenings, due out in April. In the issue we highlight the work of our Hospice at Home nursing team with an ‘interview’-style Q&A session covering such subjects as ‘what happens when you first visit a person’s home?’ and, ‘do you know when someone is going to die?”  It will offer an open and frank insight into the work of our Hospice at Home nursing care, which currently supports around 100 people every year as well as their families, carers and all those who are important to them.  In the same issue, we will be share plans for our very first Death Café in the Autumn – yes, I did say, Death Café - and I’ll give details next time.

With spring just around the corner our fundraising team is busy planning our annual Open Garden events which are held across North Northumberland during June and our annual fashion show at the Duchess High School on 29th March.  They are both hugely popular event which  last year generated around £30,000 towards our clinical services. You can find details of our Open Gardens, other fundraising events and our clinical services on our website.  It’s time to sign off - the kettle is on and the chocolate biscuits are being handed out - way too good to miss!  See you next time. Until then, be kind to yourself. Julie         

28th February 2019

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the kindness of strangers. The support we get as a local charity from local people is incredibly humbling, from people wanting to volunteer their time, to supporters doing crazy things to help raise funds. This can range from gruelling walking and running challenges to being thrown off the Tyne Bridge on a Zip Wire. Would you believe last year people in our local communities raised over £80,000 for us - how amazing is that!

Whilst on the subject of fundraising, we have our first ever brand new car to raffle thanks to local business Blackshaws, who have donated the car as part of their 100th Year celebrations - tickets are now on sale for £2 each.  Sadly, employees of HospiceCare and Blackshaws are not allowed to enter, but that hasn’t stopped us feeling super-excited about this amazing opportunity to working in partnership with a local business to raise £20,000 for our clinical services.

There isn’t a day go by when I don’t reflect on the incredible work of our nursing team and how lucky we are in North Northumberland to have a Hospice at Home service, which is available 365 days a year, day or night - you don’t even need a GP referral – you can contact the Hospice directly. Our nursing care makes it possible for people to be at home at the end of their life, instead of being hospital.

The care we offer is very much person-centred, so when we meet a patient for the first time we will ask ‘what is it we can do for you’ and  some answers may surprise you, like the gentleman who wanted to see his little dog walked on the beach one last time – so that’s what we did for him. Like the lady who wanted to create a Memory Box for her unborn grandchild that she would never meet – we did this for her and the lady who just wanted to be able to buy her own knickers from M&S and yes, we did that too. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference to our patients and their families and it’s this and so much more that makes me feel proud to be a small cog in this large HospiceCare wheel.

As an extension of our nursing care, we’ve just launched a new Information & Advice Hub based at our Berwick Hospice, Hazel Marsden House. The Hub has been set up in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare and Macmillan and offers free practical and social support to people living with a life-limiting illness, as well as their families and carers. The Hub opened on the 7th February 2019 and will be available on the 1st Thursday of each month. If you can’t get to Berwick you are most welcome to give us a call and we can chat over the telephone.  So until next time, be kind to yourself.  Julie      

14th February 2019

So, here I am, fingers poised over my keyboard to write the very first column for HospiceCare North Northumberland. To say that we, that’s all the team here at the Hospice, are super-chuffed to have been given this golden opportunity to write about life at the Hospice, is probably an understatement - it certainly had us all whooping with delight!

You see, part of my job as the Marketing & Communications Officer for HospiceCare is to ‘spread the word’ about our clinical services. However, living in one of the most rural parts of the country, with often sketchy broadband, this is not always an easy task. So when we were invited to write a regular column it was an offer that we simply couldn’t refuse – a local newspaper showcasing a local charity – now that’s a match made in Heaven!

Over the coming months, I want to share life at HospiceCare, the people who work here, our work in your community and stories from our patients and volunteers to offer an insight  into who we are, what we do and how we meet our costs.  Some of what we do may surprise you. For instance, did you know that unlike many other hospices we don’t have in-patient beds, but provide our care in the patients’ home and believe it or not, the hospice building is a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring place to work. The people and patients we meet are incredibly inspiring, it really is such a positive place to be - our weekly drop-ins are always full of laughter and fun!

In this first column I wanted to share with you the story behind the teddies that appear on our clinical literature.  They belonged to my daughter Kitty, who, now all grown up, had them as a child.  The Hospice chose the teddies as a primary image because we felt they reflected a sense of warmth, comfort, love and compassion – which pretty much sums up HospiceCare and the services we provide: Hospice at Home, Advanced Dementia Support, Bereavement Support and weekly Drop-In Clinics. We recently appointed Nina Burnett to lead our Clinical Team following the retirement of Sue Gilbertson last December.  Sue was instrumental in setting up our Hospice at Home services in 2009 and more recently the appointment of our Admiral Nurse - we all wish her a very happy retirement!

Next time read about our Hospice at Home services and exciting news from our fundraising team. So please join me to catch up with all things HospiceCare and do get in touch if there is anything in particular you would like to read about your local Hospice by emailing me directly, so until next time - be kind to yourself. Julie Frost