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Virtual Day Hospice is a lifeline for patients with life-limiting illnesses

27th November 2020

Overgate Hospice Day Hospice Team

Submitted by Rebecca Ryan, Overgate Hospice

Overgate Hospice Day Hospice is run by a multidisciplinary team who offer holistic care to people in our community living with a life-limiting illness. This care is further supported by a team of incredible volunteers who work alongside the staff in a variety of roles such as chaplaincy, patient transport, complementary therapies and craft therapy. Hospitality volunteers welcome each patient through the door with a smile, a cuppa and a listening ear. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 60 volunteers supported this vital service.

As the pandemic began to affect so many health care services, our Day Hospice had to close its doors in order to keep the vulnerable patients safe and the staff were redeployed to work on our Inpatient Unit to cover the staff who were shielding or self-isolating.

After a couple of weeks, it became apparent that the patients who would normally attend Day Hospice were suffering from anxiety and isolation and so the team developed the idea of a Virtual Day Hospice. This service launched on 1st July and sees the Nursing Team working alongside volunteers to offer support, companionship, craft therapy, relaxation therapy and physiotherapy to patients through group Zoom calls from the safety of their own homes. The volunteers join the sessions and spend time chatting to the patients as well as joining in the activities on offer.

Many of the patients had built up friendships with the volunteers during their weekly visits to the Day Hospice and have fed back how much it means to be able to continue these relationships from home.

Some of the volunteers are still unable to continue their volunteering roles due to the pandemic; however, each week a member of the Day Hospice staff telephones each of the volunteers to keep in touch and check on how they are doing. Each month the whole staff and volunteer team join together for a zoom session to keep in touch and update each other on everything that is happening at the Hospice as well as what’s happening in their lives outside the Hospice.

As the Virtual Day Hospice adapts and grows in line with the needs of the patients, the volunteers are looking at new ways in which they can support this new and innovative service. This includes delivering craft packs for the craft sessions and telephoning patients for feedback after the zoom sessions to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.

Despite the pandemic having a huge impact on this service, the volunteers remain a vital part of this incredible team, focusing on improving the quality of life for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Syd is a Day Hospice patient living with Multiple Sclerosis and his wife Norah is his main carer. Norah sent us the following email following one of Syd’s Virtual Day Hospice sessions:

“Thank you, to you all involved in Syds virtual Day Hospice Zoom meeting yesterday. It was the only interaction Syd has experienced outside his room for months and I was anxious about how he would respond as his health has suffered some serious setbacks over the time since anyone involved in his care had seen him. It is a huge responsibility caring for Syd now and it’s a lonely road at times. I just wanted to say thank you to you all for going to so much effort to include Syd. Syd enjoyed the true or false quiz as he could hold up the T or F cards independently. His lack of speech is a daily battle for us both.

“The Tai Chi was good exercise for him, it also gave me a chance to observe any changes in his awareness of the rest of his body apart from the left hand. The relaxation session was very good as it took Syds mind away from the one room he now lives, sleeps and eats in. He was very relaxed after that. Best wishes to you all, Norah.”

“Hi, I really enjoyed the session on Thursday and the two hours went quite quickly. The relaxation bit was lovely… fell right into it… thanks Jill (Therapist). Do you know what? Afterwards, I felt as if I had been out out! How about that! Thanks everyone!” Feedback from a patient who attended a Virtual Drop-In Session

"As someone who is classed as vulnerable, the Zoom meeting is invaluable. It really opens up the ability to safely interact with other people. I enjoy the Zoom meeting with the Overgate Staff, volunteers and fellow patients. Actually it creates conversation that can’t always occur when in Day Hospice." Feedback from a patient living with Motor Neurone Disease who was attending Day Hospice prior to the pandemic and is now accessing Virtual Day Hospice sessions.

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