Families can look forward to trips to Whitby, a mini-music festival and proper Christmas celebrations - Martin House Children's Hospice
We’re looking forward to an exciting moment at Martin House very soon – the day we welcome a family back to the hospice for a planned respite stay.
It might sound like a small thing, but for the last 15 months, families have been unable to visit the hospice together unless their child has come in for emergency or end of life care.
Since last summer, children coming in for planned respite have had to come alone or with one parent, but we are going to trial a full family visit very soon – including brothers and sisters.
It will give us the opportunity to learn how it might work, how many families we could potentially have, how they can move around the building, how we decontaminate areas between use, and yet keep the home-from-home feeling of it.
It will be a big step for us – we’ve all missed having families stay at Martin House, as much as families have missed coming in.
But right the way through the pandemic we have robustly protected our emergency and end of life care, because families have always told us we must provide that, so we’ve had to make tough decisions.
As well as providing learnings for us, we hope it will also be a confidence boost to families, many of whom are still understandably nervous about leaving home.
We’re responded to that over the past 15 months with a more comprehensive community care package, which has included home visits, but also increasingly more outreach in hospitals to support families when their child has been admitted.
Having a more holistic offer in the community doesn’t just help our families, it gives others a chance to better understand what we are about. For instance, there was a family who didn’t want their child referred to the hospice, but saw one of our music therapists working with a child in hospital and what we could offer, and it helped to change their mind.
At the core, the team have worked really hard to make sure we are continuing to offer really good quality palliative care, wherever the family wants to receive it.
But there’s no doubt that everything is harder than it used to be, and there’s more risk of things having to be cancelled or changed.
The care team have had to keep up with rapidly changing Covid guidance – there have been times when it’s been updated twice in 24 hours – and it’s just another layer of work for them.
Staff can also have shift after shift of looking after very sick children, as we’re having fewer children in for planned respite, so there’s less opportunity for the kinds of play activity we do.
It can be much more intense, so we have to be mindful of that and make sure they are supported, but the team has done an amazing job of coping with it all.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any fun stuff going on. We’ve done lots of online support sessions, which have been well-received, and we sent treat boxes to families for Easter and Eid to let them know we’re thinking of them.
We’re also trying to make plans for later this year – organising trips to Whitby arranging our mini-music festival, hopefully having proper Christmas celebrations, but all the time we have to reassess and flex our plans as the situation changes.
So as the country moves towards normal, we do it with more caution – to protect our children and young people, staff, and the service, which we know is desperately needed.
You can find out more about Martin House and how to support it at www.martinhouse.org.uk.