With a new shop to open in Wanstead this month, Saint Francis Hospice will raise its profile in the area. But the service provided by the Havering-based charity has always been here for us, says Amanda Green.
This time two years ago Saint Francis Hospice entered my life as my mum entered Saint Francis Hospice. It was life-changing on many levels. Mostly, of course, because my beloved mum was dying and went into Saint Francis to receive end-of-life care.
But it was also life-changing because once I and my family experienced what a hospice does, and in particular the care which Mum received, there was no way we couldn’t feel anything but compelled to support the charity by raising funds and awareness.
For me, this awareness takes on two forms. General awareness about the differences between a hospital and a hospice as well as awareness that Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower serves the whole of the borough of Redbridge as well as other areas. It has an 18-bed, in-patient unit as well as Hospice at Home, which provides palliative care to Redbridge residents. Saint Francis serves to maintain life for those with life-limiting illnesses and give the most comfortable and dignified end-of-life care possible for the terminally ill.
If you have no experience of a hospice, as it was for me, you may imagine them to be frightening, cheerless places full of sickness and death. Like me, you couldn’t be more wrong! They are full of laughter, love, compassion and camaraderie. They become ‘home’ for a few days or a few weeks, not just for the patient but for their family too. The family are supported through this terribly difficult time just as the patients are. The moment my mum entered Saint Francis, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and the support and concern for us all was tangible. And it doesn’t stop when the patient passes away, either; the hospice offer a bereavement counselling service too.
The opening of the Saint Francis charity shop on Wanstead High Street will hopefully raise awareness in these parts. Much-needed awareness for a charity that receives just 28% of its funding from the NHS and needs to raise £7.8m a year (that’s £21,000 a day) to cover the costs of its specialist end-of-life care services. Some 1,693 patients were cared for by Saint Francis in the past year.
So, now you see why it is so important to us to raise funds and awareness for Saint Francis. We have done this through walks and runs. My 84-year-old father accompanied us on the 10k Starwalk for the hospice this year and my son ran the Bristol Half Marathon in his nanny’s memory last year. And hopefully, this article will have raised awareness locally and encouraged a few readers to dig deep and donate to this wonderful cause or get involved in fundraising for the hospice – none of us know when we or a loved one might need their help.