A couple who own one of the Knightwood Mews extra care apartments had a son, who lived in London and worked in the police force. Their son would often visit, and would stay for a few days at a time, spending time with his parents and enjoying the home’s camaraderie.
During one visit, he confided in staff that he had been diagnosed with cancer, for which he was undergoing treatment and operations. He wanted to shield his parents from the impact of this as much as possible. That Christmas, he spent the holiday period with his parents, cooking Christmas lunch for them, using meat he ‘borrowed’ from the restaurant, due to him being a vegetarian and not wanting to cook meat himself!
Charlotte recalls: “Soon after the holiday period, I received a phone call, to say that sadly his condition had deteriorated rapidly, and he had developed a dense left side, caused by a brain tumour, which was making him prone to falls and unable to carry out everyday tasks. He explained that he was currently in hospital. He didn’t want to be in a hospital, but he also didn’t want to go home or end up in a hospice. He wanted to be at Knightwood, so he could be near his parents, and also cared for by faces he knew, somewhere he felt comfortable. I could tell by his voice how much this meant to him, and how hard it was for him to make this phone call.”
Charlotte describes the many thoughts that went through her mind after the phone call. Could Knightwood accommodate this? Was it the right environment for him? Could the home’s staff cope when they already face so many challenges on a daily basis? However, Charlotte and her team felt a sense of pride that the home meant so much to him, and he was choosing to spend this difficult time with them. With the agreement of Brendoncare’s senior team, and all staff within the home, they resolved to do everything they could to help.
There followed many conversations with family members, discharge teams, nurses and doctors, some of whom found it difficult to understand why he wanted to be at Knightwood. Charlotte and the team worked hard to prove that Knightwood was the best place for him to be, and that the home could cope with his needs. A nurse accompanied him to the home for a day, to assess the environment, and told Charlotte she could now understand wholeheartedly why he wanted to be at Knightwood. A date was set, and the team got to work, registering with a new GP surgery and local hospice, ensuring all the necessary equipment was in place and planning for the 24 hour care that he would require.
During this time, his mother became ill, and required a few weeks’ stay in hospital, throwing into doubt his wish to be with both of his parents.
The date for his transfer to the home arrived, and the new hospital bed had still not been delivered. It was due to arrive the next day, but rather than bring the process to a halt when his condition was continuing to deteriorate, Charlotte and the team used the hospital bed that had been in place for his mother, who was still in the local hospital herself.
Charlotte remembers the day he arrived at Knightwood: “Seeing him come through the doors, there was a change to his face, a sense of achievement that he had made it, and also relief to be there. We made sure he was comfortable, as he was exhausted from the journey, and we settled him for the night with his father by his side. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. My mind was a hive of activity and thoughts about what the near future was going to present.”
Once the new bed arrived, the team were able to arrange his apartment, making it ready for him to move into, and a cousin brought along his most important personal things, turning the apartment into a real home from home.
Overnight, his condition had deteriorated further, and his ability to communicate verbally had gone. A new means of communication via hand signals and touch was established. His GP visited, and diagnosed a chest infection, which would mean a move back to hospital for active treatment. Charlotte held his hand, while he was asked to make the decision: one squeeze for yes to be transferred to hospital; three squeezes to remain at Knightwood. He squeezed Charlotte’s hand three times. The GP repeated the question, and again he squeezed Charlotte’s hand three times.
Charlotte says: “He had made the decision to stay with us, and he wasn’t budging from that. We had created an environment that meant his loved ones could be with him whenever they wanted, they even stayed overnight. We were able to put his bed by the patio that overlooked the woods and gave him the fresh air he always loved. We supported each other around the clock ensuring he was looked after and had everything he needed. Care staff came in voluntarily to sit with him or just be there so he knew there was someone holding his hand. And his cousin also never left his side. The GPs from the local hospice also visited, and approved of everything we were doing, and felt he couldn’t be in a better environment. I will never find words to express how proud I am of my team, and how hard they worked to ensure his care was second to none, whilst carrying on with their day to day jobs and tasks, as well as dealing with all the emotional strain this naturally brings.”
His mother was discharged from her stay in hospital, and returned home, going to see him straightaway and sitting with him for as long as she could. Not long after this, he took his final breath. Charlotte believes he was waiting to see his mother before giving up his battle against this cruel disease.
Charlotte tells us why she wanted to share this story:
“The stories you hear from care homes can be quite negative, and don’t always show the positivity and enhancement that care homes can bring to individuals’ lives. We are strong, adaptable and care for older people as well as others. This story shows how truly remarkable people make the best team of carers, whose resilience, dedication and love know no ends. This is one of the toughest work situations I have ever faced, whilst also being the most unforgettable and rewarding. This situation left our team with such positivity in their own abilities and strengths, whilst experiencing first hand the difference they make every day to individuals in our home, through their hard work and care.”