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Ashgate Hospice > Christmas at Ashgate Hospice: The nurse working Christmas Day providing a lifeline for end of life patients at home

Patients nearing the end of their lives can spend Christmas Day at home with their families knowing Ashgate Hospice’s community nurses will be there if they need support. 

Jean Austin is a Community Palliative Care Nurse at the hospice and cares for patients and their families in their own homes, who are living with a palliative or end of life condition. 

Jean, who has been caring for patients for many years, will be working alongside colleagues, fielding calls through the hospice’s advice line between 9am and 5pm, offering a vital lifeline to families in crisis.  

Jean will be on hand to offer specialist advice as well as practical and emotional support to help patients manage complex symptoms during a difficult time.   

Although she will miss out on celebrating with her family this year, she feels “privileged” to be able to be there for patients when they need her support. 

“Having a loved one ill at Christmas time is both stressful and heart-breaking for many of the families we care for,” said Jean. 

“I think it is important that we’re able to make their homes an empathetic environment where patients and their families feel safe and supported. 

“Witnessing the heartache of patients and their relatives when dealing with the symptoms of having an end of life diagnosis can be so hard. 

“But providing love and support to our patients and families who recognise that this will be their last Christmas together is essential. I feel very privileged that I can help provide support and care to our patients this Christmas.” 

Jean’s day-to-day role involves assessing, implementing and coordinating the care of the palliative and end of life patients across the North Derbyshire community. 

She joined the hospice as a nurse on its Inpatient Unit in January 2021 before transferring to the hospice’s Community Team in May 2021. 

Jean says her job can be “unpredictable” at times, particularly when patients need urgent attention and the support of other vital services need pulling together.  

This will be one of many Christmases Jean has worked during her time as a hospice nurse; she says her own experiences help her care for patients. 

Jean said: “Having been a nurse for many years I always enjoy working during the festive period, plus it gets you out of doing the dreaded washing up! 

“Having had both my parents ill during Christmas time due to life-limiting illnesses I can empathise with relatives celebrating the festive season with their loved ones knowing that this could be their last Christmas together.  

“I feeI I can understand how the relatives are feeling and hopefully provide the appropriate support and advice that they need.” 

Jean says she has made some fond memories with patients and their families at Christmastime over the years. 

“I remember when a patient’s condition unexpectedly deteriorated; they needed us to urgently administer a syringe driver,” she added. 

“But they were already well into the festive spirit and their main concern was hoping they would be able to have pigs in blankets for Christmas dinner!” 

Ashgate Hospice is inviting people to support its Christmas Appeal this year so it can be there to provide care for patients and families in the future.  

This year, Ashgate must raise another £8 million over and above NHS funding to provide its care. 

A donation of £25 will help make a patient’s Christmas extra special by offering them and their family a delicious home-cooked meal, complete with a specially dressed table, a Christmas cracker and a gift too.   

Anyone who would like to support Ashgate Hospice’s Christmas Appeal can find out more by going to www.ashgatehospice.org.uk/christmas-appeal or calling the charity’s fundraising team on 01246 567250.