Anyone who has ever lost a loved one through illness knows just how traumatic the last months of a person’s life can be and how difficult it can be to deal with.

With the help of charities like Marie Curie Cancer Care, who provide nurses to care for terminally ill patients in their homes, in the day hospice and the full in patient hospice in east Belfast, patients and their families can keep going through the most painful time, receiving their dedicated help and support.

Manager of the Marie Curie Hospice Sue Curry said that what is typically a heart breaking and unbelievable stressful time can be alleviated with the help of her specially trained staff, who not only tend to the patients’ physical needs, but support families with practical help and advice that eases their burden.

Far from the depressing and unhappy place one might expect from a building that houses people who are coming to the end of their life, the hospice is a haven of peace and tranquillity with cheerful staff and bright and welcoming décor.

“People might assume the hospice to be a sad place but when they come in thy actually see that it is light and cheery, it looks fantastic and there is a real sense of warmth,” she said.

“When many people arrive to stay in the hospice they might have been in hospital and might not have had the best experience, just with staff shortages, maybe they were in a big ward with no privacy and it was tough.

“There might have been trepidation coming to the hospice, but once they arrive and are here a few hours you almost get a sense of relief, all our staff are not only trained in complex medical care but in complex conversations.

“They can talk about things people are worried about and really support patients and their families. People find it hard in Northern Ireland to talk about death, it can be frightening but we are here to help people through it.”

The Kensington Road hospice, off the Knock Road, has a newly built in patient unit with 18 beds a well as 75 places for day therapy. Its nurses also go out into the community, caring for patients in their homes. Sue said although half of their funding comes from the Department of Health, the rest they must raise themselves through charity fundraising. The trained nurse explained it costs just £10 for one hour of specialist nursing for a terminally ill patient.

“Any of the money we raise in Northern Ireland is spent in Northern Ireland to help the people here,” she said.

“Our staff are skilled in every way, in our hospice we have nurses, consultants, physiotherapists, social workers, all highly skilled staff who will helps someone every step of the way.

“I think it takes a certain kind of person to be a nurse in this environment. Marie Curie nurses are excellent and they have excellent training. Even things like helping with arrangements, wills, telling children…  all different problems you have to face in end of life care, our staff can help people through it.”

As well as helping with palliative care, the hospice also provides services such as complimentary therapies, a specialist lung clinic and a fully equipped gym called the well being room.

“We can specially tailor a package of activities for each individual patient that really helps them, doing a bit of exercise actually helps give you energy.

“We gave a young guy here who came to us from the cancer centre and he was very ill and had been in intensive care. We got him sorted in the well being room and the transformation has been amazing. He looks amazing and feels so much better.

“It’s not like we are bringing people here to give up on them we help them and empower them.”

Sue said the charity’s work also doesn’t finish when a patient passes away, they also provide care and support for bereaved families

“We don’t stop when a patient dies, our pathway of care continues. We help the family with our bereavement care and we can also sign post them to where in their community they can receive help.”

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