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karen's story karen with painting of derek

“We didn’t have to fight this big world on our own” – Karen’s Story

5th June 2023


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This week is Carers’ Week, an opportunity to highlight the work of people who provide care for their loved ones. Many people who are being looked after by Weldmar, in their last months, weeks, and days of life, have family members and loved ones who have become their carers, and support is on hand for them from the charity too.

Karen and Derek’s journey with Weldmar Hospicecare began in March 2022, following Derek’s diagnosis of tumours in both his lungs and brain. Sadly, the tumours were too far advanced to be treated, and Derek was referred to Weldmar for palliative care in Dorset. As well as an initial visit from their Weldmar Community Nurse Jo Sibley, the couple also met Chloe Hook – our Carer Support Coordinator.

“Chloe came every week and I felt that she was really there for me,” says Karen. “She is a lovely person, what I liked from the start is that she got to know Derek before he became really ill.”

“Chloe really helped me and gave me lots of moral and practical support. She arranged for us to get a blue badge for our car, and attendance allowance for both of us – which is lots of paperwork. I told her that I couldn’t do it, that the forms had been on my desk for some time. It was no problem for her to deal with. She arranged for a personal alarm for Derek because he had started to fall over. She helped me with paying bills and transferring accounts into my name, because Derek had done all of that – I didn’t know the difference between a standing order and a direct debit. She really knew how it all worked and was very efficient in these things. She even helped me to get my emails on my new phone, and to put Zoom on my laptop.”

Both Chloe and Jo continued to see the couple regularly, but in August Derek’s condition started to worsen. During that time, Derek received a home visit from Weldmar’s Dr Paul Barker to assess the situation. At that point, Derek’s legs had stopped functioning and Karen knew that things had reached a point where she couldn’t look after him. Needing assistance from Weldmar, Karen called Jo, who said that there was a bed available at the Inpatient Unit in Dorchester. Jo then went on to arrange for an ambulance to take Derek there for more sustained observation and care.

“Derek was an outdoor person,” explains Karen, “and he’d been stuck inside the house for four weeks. At the hospice, it was brilliant the way he was looked after. When he wanted to go outside, they were able to wheel his bed out into the gardens, and he said how lovely it was to feel the sun on his face again. He was so well looked after.”

karen's story karen and derek

Although Karen could drive, she was not feeling confident behind the wheel as her head was spinning with everything that was happening. Chloe arranged for Weldmar volunteers to drive Karen from her home in Beaminster to the Inpatient Unit. Karen went on to stay at the hospital on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout Derek’s five-week stay. Karen says Chloe’s support for her continued at this time. “She would often take me away from Derek’s bedside for half an hour. We would talk about practical stuff and emotional stuff.”

“When Derek died, she knew what to do, who to inform, and had all the knowledge to help me do what needed to be done. She knew about bereavement and what I was going through. I know it’s her job, but it was quite amazing how she just understood it all. And the best thing was that she knew Derek. When she came to see me to provide bereavement support, she knew about Derek because she was there from the start, and that made a huge difference.”

karen's story karen's familyWhat did it mean for Karen to have Chloe’s and Weldmar’s support?

“It was brilliant because we were not on our own. We didn’t have to fight the big world on our own and there was someone who could explain. I also felt that Chloe always had the time for me. She would come all the way here and spend an hour with me, and if an hour wasn’t enough, she would stay a bit longer. I had time to discuss everything.”

“I also saw that Weldmar creates a lovely working environment, both for the people who came to our home and at the hospice. People work with pleasure. I said to one of the nurses who was looking after Derek that it must be so difficult for you to look after people at the end of life, but she said that here she can care to the very best standards. It’s not just the medical care – Derek told me that the food he had was ‘astonishingly good’, which it was. I could eat with him on the days I was there. Whilst he was at the hospice, his sister celebrated a birthday and nothing was too much trouble. His bed was wheeled into the Orangery, his two-year-old great nephew was given toys to play with, and lots of attention!”

Chloe continued to provide support for Karen once Derek had died, always there on the phone when needed, in the times when Karen felt isolated and in need of a talk.

“You’re a brilliant organisation. I’m so grateful. Chloe has been such a big practical and emotional support for me. I really appreciate that she knew Derek and that she was able to be there from the beginning. You think that all the care will be for Derek, so I was really pleasantly surprised that you [Weldmar] thought I needed help too. I am now receiving bereavement counselling from Weldmar and have help from the volunteer drivers too.”

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