John took time out from Peasedown Coffee Club to explain how Dorothy House has helped support him and his wife, Barb.
‘My wife and I first met Dorothy House nurse specialist Claire when she came to the house and, apart from when she was on holiday, she visited us at least once every week. She gave us her mobile number – if we needed to phone her about anything, we could. If she didn’t answer her phone she would get back to us very quickly – or someone else would.
‘We both looked forward to Claire’s visits enormously. She was always bright, positive, calm, sympathetic and she was empathetic. She made us both feel very much at ease. But she didn’t pull any punches. If there was something serious she had to say, she said it.
‘For me she could not have been more supportive. She would chat with us. And she arranged things. For instance – Barb was provided with a wheelchair and a wheeled walking frame, then later pressure socks, and a special cushion. There was a bed aid, too, to help her get in and out of bed – which actually wasn’t very useful – so it was removed immediately. When Claire arranged things, they arrived within a day or so and if there was something we no longer needed it was taken away so the place wasn’t cluttered up.
Claire always kept me fully informed with her view of immediate issues and also with her opinion of the medium-term prognosis. Two weeks before Barb died, Claire told me that I should expect the end in weeks not months, and she was right.
The Monday before Barb died, Claire suggested that we should have a Hospice at Home for Barb’s sake and to help me. She put that in place on the same day, and that enabled me to sleep better for the first time for many months.
It is not an exaggeration to claim she was a ray of sunshine in a very dark storm, but always edged with reality. Claire was always positive, but she never overstated any situation.
‘Now I still come to Coffee Club – I miss it terribly when it’s not on. There are six widowers here – we all get on pretty well and we look after each other.
‘I’ve had this lunatic idea – we’re all cooking for each other for lunch at mine. Everyone’s providing either two portions of a pudding or a main course. We don’t like cooking and we’re making the best of a bad job. If someone buys a meal for two from Tesco, that’s OK. It’s not about the food, it’s about getting together and helping each other through.’