THE BLOG

Creating Memorable Moments for Hospice Patients

08/01/2014 15:08 GMT | Updated 10/03/2014 09:59 GMT

While New Year's resolutions are still fresh, many of us have no doubt been looking at how we spend our time and how we can introduce positive changes this year.

Time is precious for all of us, but this is especially true for people who are terminally ill. This affects individuals in different ways but many choose to embrace life as fully as possible and indeed are supported to do this by hospices across the country.

Help the Hospices was fortunate to have been chosen as one of six national charities to benefit from ITV's recent Text Santa appeal. The appeal - which finishes at the end of this week - has so far raised £4.2 million.

While the appeal has helped raised vital funds for our work and the work of hospices, one of its most important benefits was helping create many memorable moments for people receiving hospice care.

People like Amanda, aged 35, who receives care from Teesside Hospice in Middlesbrough. The mother-of-two was diagnosed with spinal neuroblastoma - a rare condition usually found in children - five years ago. She has undergone regular intensive treatment since then but has continued to remain positive for her young sons.

Amanda, a big Blue fan, was delighted when the band dropped into Teesside Hospice on a surprise visit. She later enjoyed a VIP visit to one of their concerts and appeared in a special episode of ITV's The Big Reunion.

The Text Santa appeal also turned wishes into reality for Dianne Freeth. Di, 56, has terminal lung cancer and is supported by Compton Hospice in Wolverhampton. In February this year was told she had just six months to live. Not one to let this news break her spirit she has rallied forward, taking on a number of physical endurance challenges including a 250 mile bike ride so far raising over £3,000 for charity.

Di had planned to do an additional bike ride for the hospice earlier this year, but as her health worsened it didn't look possible until ITV heard about this incredible lady. As part of the Text Santa appeal ITV arranged for her to do her cycle challenge with the help of some of Di's favourite Olympians Roger Black, Tessa Sanderson and Jamie Baulch.

The challenge took place on a stationary bike inside a pod on the London Eye, with incredible views over the city of London. Her efforts were broadcast on ITV's This Morning and what's more ITV are matching every pound that Di raises for Compton Hospice.

Di's indomitable, positive attitude is hugely inspiring. As she says:"I'm living with cancer, not dying with cancer. And I want to live the rest of my life in the most adventurous and extravagant way possible."

Finally, there is Alex, aged 42 who has terminal lung cancer. She receives care from Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice and with their help is creating a Memory Box for her three-year-old daughter Jessica - filled with collages and paintings they have created together so she has "living memories" of her in later life. The hospice is also helping Alex create a Memory DVD with footage from her life. She was interviewed by Jim Carter - who plays the head butler Mr Carson in the popular drama series Downton Abbey - for the Text Santa appeal and the highly moving footage will be included in her DVD for her daughter.

All these special opportunities for patients created by ITV, with their focus on fulfilling people's personal wishes and hopes, also mirror the values and approach of hospice care, which centres on providing personalised support tailored to someone's preferences and needs.

This is why as well as providing high quality care, hospices will go the extra mile for people living with terminal illness, enabling them to bring their pet in for a visit, enjoy their favourite tipple or take their bed out into the garden. It is all part of the hospice philosophy that people and their families should be supported to live life as fully as possible and make the most of their precious time together.

Something perhaps to reflect upon as many of us put new resolutions about how we spend our time into practice.

Jonathan Ellis is Director of Policy and Advocacy at national hospice charity Help the Hospices which supports and champions more than 200 hospices across the UK.