When Gordon needed support most, St Catherine's Hospice was there to provide it, which allowed him to die in his home surrounded by family.
I thought St Catherine’s was just for people with cancer, I never knew it was there for people with all kinds of life-shortening illnesses. And I didn’t realise there were nurses who came out to the house.
Memories of their youngest granddaughter sitting on the bed with her husband Gordon, laughing and playing, are some of the most treasured that Margaret has of the last months of his life.
The couple were visited by community nurses from St Catherine's Hospice, in Preston, when Gordon’s multiple conditions began to deteriorate.
"They may not have had long together,” Margaret explains, “but it was quality over quantity. Evelyn absolutely loved her granddad, and he got such a boost out of seeing her, and all of his grandchildren.
"He loved spending time with them and they were all absolutely fantastic with him, helping to look after him. That we were at home to enjoy that time with the grandchildren and the children means such a lot. Without the support we got from St Catherine’s, Gordon would have had to stay in hospital."
Among his many illnesses, Gordon was in a wheelchair, had suffered a heart attack, sepsis and was showing signs of dementia. When he needed surgery to remove his feet following the sepsis infection, doctors advised such a major operation could take a major toll. Margaret and her family faced an agonising decision.
"He wanted to be surrounded by the people who loved him, in a familiar place. As a family we decided we couldn’t put that at risk so we felt it was better he didn’t go through with the operation. Instead, we focused on getting him home."
As well as help with pain management and symptom control, Margaret valued the emotional support she got from the hospice nurse. The couple were also visited at home by one of the hospice's volunteer befrienders, giving Margaret a well-needed break once a week.
"She (the nurse) was somebody who understood,” Margaret, a retired mental health nurse said. "She allowed me to talk about things, which is a huge part of that process – yes you have your children to talk to, but they are suffering as well."
Margaret, aged 71, said: "I very much wanted to be the person who looked after Gordon – I’d spent years caring for others as a nurse; I wanted to do that for him too. I didn’t want to just leave him with anyone."
Margaret said she was happy to support the Open Up campaign to raise awareness of the services St Catherine’s provides at home, admitting that she did not know the breadth of support the charity provides.
"I thought St Catherine’s was just for people with cancer,” she said. “I never knew it was there for people with all kinds of life-shortening illnesses. And I didn’t realise there were nurses who came out to the house."
Margaret is grateful she was able to follow Gordon’s wishes.
"Knowing we did what he wanted for those final months is a comfort to us all."
About Hospice Care Week
Hospice Care Week is a chance to join with hospices nationwide to celebrate the hard work, achievements and commitment of our hospice sector. At Hospice UK, we believe that everyone, no matter who they are, where they are or why they are ill, should receive the best possible care at the end of their life.