Care for terminally-ill carries on at Christmas

Home visits by Treetops nurses are vital, particularly over the festive season
Home visits by Treetops nurses are vital, particularly over the festive season

Christmas is a time when we try to forget the strains and stresses of work and instead focus on spending time with friends and family. Settling down to TV and turkey isn’t viewed as just a seasonal perk but as an enshrined right.

For some people though, the festive period isn’t a guaranteed holiday, but is just another day at work.

Louise Andrews, of Awsworth, is one such person.

For she is a nurse specialising in palliative care and she often works through the Christmas period to provide help and support for terminally-ill patients and their families.

“You just get used to it,” claimed Louise, who has worked for the Derbyshire-based charity Treetops Hospice for the past seven years.

“As a nurse you’re used to working over Christmas,” she continued.

“Luckily, I don’t have to work Christmas Day with Treetops, but I did when I worked at Ilkeston Hospital.

“Sick people still need the same level of care over the holidays as at any other time.”

Treetops Hospice provides respite and palliative care for adults with illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis. It also provides help and support to their carers and families.

Its nurses provide end-of-life care for patients in their own homes, allowing people to die with dignity in a comfortable and familiar surrounding.

There is also a day-care centre in Risley and a Bereavement Support Service in Sandiacre for adults, children and families.

As a registered charity, all the services are provided free of charge. It costs £2million to run the hospice each year; the majority of which needs to be raised through charitable donations and fundraising events. The sensitive nature of the job means that Christmas takes a back seat for some of the hospice workers.

Louise said: “Christmas is a happy occasion and a time of celebration. But when you work with people that are dying it’s sad, particularly for the family members.”

“The work means that you don’t really feel like it’s Christmas. You know the date means that it is, but you don’t feel much Christmas spirit.

“The people I see aren’t going to get better so the mood amongst everyone involved is very sombre.”

Emergency service personnel work in one of the few sectors that operate on a continuous basis over the festive period. The hectic schedule often monopolises employees’ time whilst the gruelling work can take a heavy emotional toll.

“It’s tough to do it [palliative care] but you have to try and switch off when you get home,” added Louise.

“You can get very emotionally involved with the patients but you always try to remain separate and professional - but it’s hard no to be affected by the job.

“When my children were growing up I would often have to work Christmas Day. Unfortunately you miss out on spending time with them when every other family is together.

“You try to still do the important things. I always tried to be there when my kids opened their presents on Christmas morning. You just have to juggle things around and put the important things first.”

Despite these seasonal sacrifices, Louise is never pessimistic about her role and the valuable contribution her care makes.

“My job is very rewarding,” she proudly stated.

“To help people die comfortably and free of pain is very important to me. I like the fact that these people can spend their final days in their own homes surrounded by loved ones.

“Working over Christmas is difficult, but it’s part of the job and worth the sacrifice.”