Family Life

Palliative care nurse: 'It's devastating, but we'll cry together'

The role which palliative care services play in our communities is beyond amazing. 

However, it is often a service which is overlooked, many forgetting its funds rely massively upon fundraising. 

Sitting down with Aine Hughes, Team Leader in St. Francis Hospice, Community Palliative Care in Co. Dublin, we at MagicMum learned a great deal more about the service than we had ever known, and we're grateful for the opportunity. 

Aine, a mum-of-two from Skerries, has been a hospice nurse for over 30 years, practicing in both London and Ireland.

Starting out in her medical career, her intentions to become an orthopaedic nurse were halted by love when she landed overseas with her now husband, and fate took her on a journey she'll never forget. 

Aine tells MagicMum: "When we moved to London a new hospice opened around the corner from where we were living, I thought I'd apply and it would be a nice fit for the moment, but I loved it, so when we returned home it felt natural to stay in palliative care."

While a certain portion of her day is afforded to administration work, Aine is glad her leader role continues to allow her out on the road, visiting patients, her true passion and calling. 

"No day is the same, the people are so diverse, they are who keep you motivated, I can't describe how interesting they are – people are just amazing."

Aine explains how her day can take her anywhere in North Dublin, from people's homes to nursing homes, community homes and psychiatric hospitals.

And not alone will the nurse visit different areas, but each patient has a different condition. 

Dispelling the myth hospices are solely for the dying, Aine reveals palliative care is much more: "It's for people with life-limiting conditions; multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease etc."

"Our patients at the moment are ranging in age from four-weeks-old to 96-years-old."

"Not all are dying, lots of people receive our help for symptom control, dipping in and out of our care. Our hospice is a happy place, it's not what people think."

While the mum-of-two finds her job fulfilling, she also admits how difficult it can be at times and how having a strong team surrounding her is incredibly important. 

"I never dread going to work, we help take a lot of stress and anxiety from families, but some days are difficult, especially if a patient mirrors your life in some way."

"Some days, things don't go right."

Some days, the journey does end for a family: "It's a great privilege to be travelling alongside the families, to help, reassure, educate, empower and comfort."

"It can be very sad, very stressful, but very rewarding. We [the team] try to have a cup of tea in the evenings, to see how everyone's day was, if there's anything that people need to talk about."

The nurses bond with their patients, however, they do try to keep it on a professional level, as the service which they provide aims to aid families, allowing them to be relieved of certain burdens.

Nonetheless, they are human too, and in devastating circumstances, Aine reveals: "We'll cry together, we'll come back and talk about it, each month we'll talk about the people that have passed in that time."

"We'll remember the little things, just sweet reminders about those people, because they were people and not just patients."

"Humour is very important too."

The hospice holds a gathering four times yearly, a small way in which they can remember those they have lost, inviting families to light a candle for their loved ones.

On a personal level, working as a hospice nurse gives meaning to Aine's day: "It's not a job you can just go through, it's not something that's easy to leave either. It's the people."

Knowing how important it is to keep the service running on an efficient level, Aine is hoping many people will host a coffee morning for hospice, as she understand how every cent helps them reach more people in need of care. 

Aine's work hasn't gone unnoticed either as her own children held a fundraising day recently, raising €63 from the sale of cookies: "Every cent counts, we still need it, but people are great."

"The hospice is not just about a building, it's important for patients to know that, for families to know there is support there," added the team leader. 

Each year Bewley's host a coffee morning where communities can gather in a host house, donating monies towards a cup of tea or coffee and some treats, but most importantly gathering for a chat – community support. 

The monies raised go toward essential services such as home-care nurses, new equipment and development of new hospice care facilities.

As Aine concludes: "Unfortunately, all of us, at some stage in our lives, will be touched by someone with ill health, or a life-limiting condition. To continue the service, to reach those people who need us, we need funds – we want more than anything to be able to reach those people." 

For those interested in hosting a coffee morning to help raise funds for their local hospice, you can register at Bewley’s provides the coffee to each host free of charge and this coffee will be provided to you after you register online. You can also contact your local hospice by calling 1890 998 995.

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