Hospice Care Week takes place this month and the theme is 'what it takes,' which takes a look at the less visible work that goes into supporting hospice care across the UK.

Carla, who is both a Care Assistant with St Wilfrid's Care at Home team, and a Relief Manager for our Community Shops, has a unique insight into what it takes for the hospice to support its patients and their families.

Her background is in retail, and she has more than 25 years' experience in the sector, but she decided to seek out a new challenge; as she explains: 

‘I love people and working with people, and caring seemed like a natural fit for my skills. I worked as a domiciliary carer - which I enjoyed - but I wanted to learn more about end of life care, especially because I lost my own dad to cancer when I was young. 

‘Although I was aware of St Wilfrid’s and would think “what a wonderful place” whenever I drove past the hospice building, the first time I went inside was at my interview.

‘My role with Care at Home involves visiting patients who want to stay at home, assisting them with personal care, this might involve bathing, helping with medication, or making a cup of tea. 

‘There’s no such thing as a “typical” day; every patient is different - and so are their needs - especially as we are supporting more patients with complex conditions, such as motor neurone disease.

‘If a patient doesn’t have long left to live, they can deteriorate quite rapidly - this can be overnight in a lot of cases - and so we have to respond quickly. In that sense, the role can be quite fast-paced. 

‘And, of course, there’s a lot of emotions, too; you’re supporting patients at their families at a difficult time, and the Care at Home team isn’t immune to having feelings, either - we are human, after all. 

‘It can be challenging, but I know what a big difference we’re making: we’re often welcomed as if we’re part of a patient’s family, and it’s not unusual to receive gifts and cards, too. 

The most common feedback we get is that we’re guardian angels, and it’s such a privilege to be there for patients at a difficult time. 

‘It might sound surprising but my role with Care at Home works so well with my second job at St Wilfrid’s as a Relief Manager for the hospice’s Community Shops’

‘As a Relief Manager, I’m doing all the same things you would find in commercial retail: cashing up, sorting stock, arranging window displays, but the feeling of a St Wilfrid’s Community Shop is completely different.

‘A lot of our volunteers have lost a loved one under the care of St Wilfrid’s, and so they feel a special connection to the hospice and to each other through that shared experience of bereavement; I always say that each shop and its volunteers is like a little family. 

‘When I tell my patients and their families about my second job and the money the shops raise for all the care at St Wilfrid’s, they find it quite interesting; I don’t think a lot of people realise how much it costs to keep the hospice running. 

‘I help with the fundraising efforts myself: as soon as I get paid, as I spend my wages every time I go to the shops!

‘I will then have the families of patients I’ve looked after at home pop into the shops to see me and to bring in donations.

‘I’m meeting people at different stages on their journey with the hospice, and I’m able to support them in different ways, which is why I think the two roles work so well together. 

I’ve shocked myself by holding down two jobs that are completely different; I’ve really blossomed since joining St Wilfrid’s, and supporting my patients and their families is something that just makes my heart feel warm inside.