January 24 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


A little peace of heaven on earth

CLARE MURPHY, from ST MARGARET OF SCOTLAND HOSPICE, explains how care, comfort and love are at the heart of a successful hospice

A hospice is rich with life. Everyone who needs a hospice should have the opportunity of having the support and love required at such a challenging time in one’s life. Being in the hospice is about feeling loved, cared for and supported, not only the patient, but the whole family. St Margaret of Scotland Hospice is about helping people to live their life in the way they would wish right up to the end. The hospice needs to be friendly, supportive and above all, as near to the patient’s experience of being at home.

Every day in the hospice is a new day for each patient and how often we have heard it said by patients that we should never take our health for granted because in a moment, it can be so quickly taken from us? Therefore we should always give thanks for the gift of good health. Do we realise the gift of life really is a present, to be celebrated every day, not just saved until a birthday? No matter how long you think you have in life, it is still a very short time.

At St Margaret of Scotland Hospice, our core values are of paramount importance—dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy. These core values underpin who we are and everything we do. We hear so many times today of people having poor experiences in hospitals, care homes, and so on, and that there is a lack of compassion. You often wonder why this is. Is it because we as a society have become so materialistic and put everything that is worldly above the things which really matter? We do everything we can to give the person the life they deserve and are entitled to. Dignity, humanity, love, life… these are words that you will find yourself thinking about when you experience life in a hospice. A place filled with demonstrable compassion.

At the hospice, we care for every patient in a unique and individual way. We care for the uniqueness of life. We care for the ordinary and the extraordinary moments.

Palliative care is not about the condition; it is always about the person. Our approach to providing care is holistic, taking into account the uniqueness of the individual and the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of both patients and their families. A multi-professional team approach to providing care is undertaken within the hospice. The multi-professional team comprises of medical staff, nursing staff, physiotherapists, occupational therapist, pastoral care staff, counsellors, art therapist, social worker and complementary therapists.


Life is for living and we try to cherish and support those in our care by allowing them to share their memories, wishes and desires through the world of social media. With the advance in technology, the patient is able to be in constant contact with their relatives regardless of where they are living. The hospice Facebook page has many contributions from family members who wish to share their experience and raise awareness of the impact of hospice care on the lives of those they love.

One of the most important things for patients is to be able to share their life story and to leave sometimes something very important and valuable to those they love. This we are able to achieve again by the advances in technology. Each life has brought a new story, a new family, a new set of friends who remember and share the life story.

Many people do not understand the role of hospice care and how it is able to make a difference in so many peoples’ lives at a most challenging and difficult time.


A hospice is about care, comfort, love, life and death. If not living in the moment of it, preparing for it at the very least. You might not need a hospice but you need to know they are there, if not for yourself, then for your family, your neighbours and friends. The NHS is about health, caring, curing, emergency medicine, investigation and diagnostics and is an amazing and integral part of our world. However, there are times when the NHS can no longer continue treating patients and this is where palliative care is of paramount importance and where the hospice comes into its own.

We learn much from our patients, their families and friends. We learn to treasure the precious moments and we learn to recognise what is important as life comes to an end. A recent comment from a relative explained the hospice as: “A truly tremendous place. In times of despair a little piece of heaven on earth.”

The hospice is open to all who are in need of its care regardless of colour, creed, faith and culture.

Although death is a natural part of life and one which each one of us is aware will happen at some time, the thought and process of dying still frightens so many of us. A hospice represents a compassionate approach to end of life care, enhancing the quality of life each day and enabling the patients to live pain free and comfortable.

We live in a disposable age and therefore death is so often a taboo subject. Preparing for death is very difficult to approach. However, we prepare for all the big events in our lives, for example, birth, marriages, anniversaries, and so on, but we still find it difficult to make any kind of such preparation regarding our deaths. Talking about death is an education in itself but it behoves each one of us, particularly in this age, to carefully write down our own wishes regarding what would happen to us if we suddenly became ill.  This not only helps the person who is ill but also is of tremendous help when anything happens to the patient. It saves a tremendous amount of worry and helps the family know the wishes of their loved one.

Of course people get angry but this is a normal emotion. However, once they are in the hospice and we begin the journey with them. No two patients react in the same way which is why we have staff who absolutely understand each patient. They must have empathy, compassion, love and understanding, otherwise the hospice is not the place for them to work.

Some families choosing hospice care may do so only for the last few days of life and later come to regret this because of the difference the hospice can make to them at a very stressful time. Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy.

No matter how ill patients are, you will find they rarely lose their sense of humour and it is up to us to make sure they go on living their lives in the way they wish, fulfilling any goals or ambitions they may have.

It is not the building that makes the difference, it is the people who are caring and will always put the patient at the centre, making sure that they are loved, supported and respected right up to the end and beyond.

There is a finality about death and no matter how skilled you are as a practitioner, you can never really have someone prepared for that final moment when someone you love is no longer able to communicate with you. Therefore it is of paramount importance that the hospice always selects staff who have a complete understanding of this. If you get this wrong, relatives rarely forget.

Sometimes when patients are admitted to the hospice they can be full of anger, anxiety and fear. This is part of any diagnosis of a life limiting illness. It is the shock and sudden reality that we are after all mortal beings. Life is so fragile and it can be taken away from us at any moment. As Henry Nouwen said: “We are born as fragile beings, We die as fragile beings, we all need each other to live well and to die well.”


In a recent article at the weekend, the headline read: ‘Belgium considers extension to Euthanasia law.’ “A Belgian Senate Committee has voted 13-4 to extend the right to request euthanasia to children with terminal illnesses and adults with dementia,” the article stated. “On November, 16 paediatricians wrote in an open letter in two national Belgian newspapers demanding an extension of the practice. The bill will now go to the Senate and if it is voted in to the House of Representatives, where it would need to be approved before being signed into law.”

In Scotland, there is a campaign to introduce legislation for assisted suicide. It behoves each and every one of us to make sure that the sanctity of life is protected in every way for every person. You can see from the above quote how quickly such legislation can change and new categories introduced.

In recent months, public awareness events ‘Dying Matters: Let’s talk about it,’ have been held at the hospice. For further information on the next public awareness session ‘Overcoming the great taboo…’ please contact the hospice on 0141-435 7017. The sessions are valuable for members of the public who find it difficult to begin talking about death and their wishes for the end of their lives.


n www.smh.org.uk




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