• 2 January 2018

Caring staff at a community hospice in High Wycombe know only too well that Christmas can be one of the most emotionally-challenging times of the year.

Sharon Fairclough, head of clinical services for the The South Bucks Community Hospice, at Butterfly House, said the hospice’s nurses and healthcare workers are “acutely aware” that there is often a “mix of emotions” during the festive season for their patients, carers and family members.

She said: “Many people who come to our hospice wish to rejoice in Yuletide but there are others, some of whom live with a serious life-limiting illness, who can find the hustle and bustle of the festivities difficult or painful.”

“It is for this reason, our staff are mindful to take great care to ensure they get the balance of celebration right for everyone who uses our services.

“It is vital that our staff are patient-led and are responsive in a caring and sensitive way.

“We need to respect the wishes and feelings of all the people who come to us at Christmas, and tailor our work to their needs.

“This may mean giving some a merry celebration lunch, while allowing others the quiet time and space they require.”

Traditional Christmas lunch is provided every day leading up to Christmas, but staff also offer other options for those with different dietery requirements.

Where appropriate, healthcare assistants wear festive hats, while some patients can choose to wear Christmas jumpers.

Christmas music is played, and there are festive lights on the tree and around the fireplace.

Sharon added: “For many patients, this is a lovely, fun way to mark the Yuletide season, but our staff know this is not right for everyone at the hospice, so we have to be flexible.”

The hospice, which is non-bedded, offers “holistic” palliative care services and cares for around 65 patients per month.

It closes on December 22 but reopens on December 27 when patients can attend on the 27th, 28th and 29th to take advantage of day services such as personal care, bathing and hair washing.

Carole Hildreth, head of nursing, said: “Whatever is required will be offered on these days.

“It may be the hospice is an ideal refuge for some peace and quiet to get away from busy households that are full of Christmas guests – or it could be an opportunity to give carers a brief respite during the three days between Christmas and New Year.

“We are fortunate to have volunteer drivers who are prepared to drive for us between Christmas and New Year.”

For details about volunteering, contact Sue Hannaford on 01494 552 761 or email volunteers@sbhospice.org.uk.