'When I was there, they gave me a life': Phillip's story of dignity and dedication at Weston Hospicecare
PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 January 2017
"The hospice gave us some life back - they're all living angels, and I'm so humbled to have met people like them."
These are the words of widow Denise Montgomery, whose husband Phillip was cared for by Weston Hospicecare before his death last month.
While the pain of losing her husband is undoubtedly difficult, Denise says her husband’s illness was made easier to cope with thanks to the dignity and respect he received from staff at the hospice.
The hospice and Denise have chosen to share Phillip’s story ahead of national Dignity In Care day on Wednesday, which gives people the chance to speak up for dignified treatment in the UK’s care system and ensure everyone receives the same compassion and sensitivity Phillip and his family did.
What does dignity in care mean?
Although health and social care services such as those provided by the hospice are at the heart of the dignity in care movement, its reach expands far beyond the confines of a hospital, care home or hospice.
The dignity in care campaign focuses on treating colleagues, patients, friends and relatives with sensitivity and respect during difficult times.
It is marked with a national day of awareness on Wednesday, which encourages both health and social care workers and members of the public to promote compassionate care and stand up for people’s rights to dignified treatment, regardless of their background.
The hospice, in Thornbury Road in Uphill, will mark the day with a two-hour session on what dignity in care means, alongside discovering how the hospice encourages dignity.
People can also sign up to become dignity ‘champions’ – which means they make a firm commitment to treating other people with respect and sensitivity, whether they are in the healthcare sector or not.
Weston Hospicecare’s director of patient services, John Bailey, said the movement was making great strides in encouraging people to think about what dignified treatment really entails.
He said: “The movement encourages people to talk about what dignity in care means.
“We’re also encouraging people to sign up as dignity champions. Dignity champions are those who believe that being treated with dignity is a basic human right, not an optional extra.”
Phillip’s story: How dignified care made a difference to the end of his life
After more than a year of tests and treatments, Phillip was diagnosed with cancer of the unknown primary before moving into the hospice’s care.
Cancer of the unknown primary means although doctors have picked up malignant cells within a patient’s body, they cannot find out where the cancer originated from – and this makes the illness incredibly difficult to tackle.
Phillip told the Mercury shortly before he died that the care and compassion he received as a Hospicecare patient brought great comfort to both him and the rest of his family.
Phillip, who lived in Worle, said: “When I came out of hospital (following my diagnosis), I was sent away with a packet of pills and told I had terminal cancer.
“I came home and I tried to manage the drugs and my pain levels on my own. I went from different extremes and stages of pain – from writhing on the floor in pain to being ‘spaced out’ on drugs.
“Everyone at the hospice is just so professional. I don’t know how to put it into words.
“When I was there, they gave me a life – there’s understanding and there’s empathy.”
Phillip’s care was overseen by Hospicecare community nurse specialist Gwen Harding.
All patients who are referred to the hospice are assigned a community nurse specialist to co-ordinate their treatment, and both Phillip and Denise said they felt this made a huge difference to Phillip’s quality of life.
Denise said: “The hospice gave us some life back. Nothing is too much.
“It’s not just that they make you feel at home; they make you feel part of the family.
“Our daughters are 14 and 17. We’re very open and don’t hide anything, and Gwen has been a good influence on them.
“They’ve taken on Gwen’s calm approach.”
How can you find out more about the dignity in care movement?
The hospice will mark national dignity in care day with an open session on Wednesday. It will last from 2-4pm at the hospice, in Thornbury Road, and will include a range of talks on the topics and the opportunity to sign up to becoming a dignity champion.
For more information, visit www.westonhospicecare.org.uk or www.dignityincare.org.uk