14 Aug 2020 Care
“Kirkwood still kept us connected as a family despite the restrictions”
Never before has staying connected been so important. With social distancing affecting family life everywhere, many of Kirkwood’s patients and their loved ones had to adapt during these difficult times, but thanks to modern technology, Kirkwood has made it possible for families to stay connected.
In April this year, Sally Crank and her mum Eileen, felt Kirkwood would be the best place for their much-loved father and husband, Michael Carter, to spend his final weeks. Before being admitted to Kirkwood, Michael’s health had deteriorated dramatically following an earlier diagnosis of lung and brain cancer. It was incredibly tough for Eileen and her daughters to see Michael battling his illnesses, but they knew that Kirkwood would do all they could to make him comfortable through end of life care.
Sally reflects on how Kirkwood supported the family through this unknown time, beginning with those first few weeks when Michael was admitted to the In-Patient Unit. “When dad was first admitted, we didn’t see him for nearly two weeks, which was heart breaking for all of us, especially mum. We knew because of the social distancing measures it wasn’t going to be easy, but we didn’t want dad to feel alone or that we had forgotten about him. My sister, Anneli, had travelled up from London to be with mum and I, and all we wanted to do was spend time with dad.”
The nurses could see the challenges being faced by patients at Kirkwood, and had to quickly adapt their skills and ways of working to ensure families could be together, offering support every step of the way. The introduction of video calls was a way for families to keep connected, albeit virtually.
Michael and Eileen celebrating their golden wedding anniversary with family and friends in September 2019
Sally continues: “The team at Kirkwood organised video calls for us, so that we could see dad and talk to him regularly. He was admitted on the Tuesday, and we had our first call the day after. It was upsetting at first as we just wanted to be able to hug and kiss him, but of course that wasn’t possible. His face would light up when he heard our voices on the video calls, particularly when mum had a chat with him, which was so comforting to see.
“A few weeks after dad was admitted, we were able to visit the Unit and see him for one hour per week, wearing full PPE. We would arrange the time, and then call the unit 10 minutes before to make sure he was in good spirits. One day, dad slept for the full hour we were there. The nurse could see how disappointed we all were that we didn’t spend quality time together at the weekly visiting, so went above and beyond arranging a surprise video call for us when he was awake. Dad was sat up with a big smile on his face, and we all got the chance to enjoy that special hour together.”
Janet Hawksworth, a social worker at Kirkwood, was on hand to make sure families, such as Eileen’s and Sally’s, could communicate with their relatives throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. “We started to introduce video calls very early on in lockdown as families were unable to physically visit loved ones. It’s an awful feeling having to ring someone and explain that they can’t visit someone they cherish so dear.
“The video calls kept Eileen, Sally and their family connected to Michael, and ensured that they could all meet up virtually, and see the environment in which Michael was being cared for. I would often show them around the room and the garden to give them an idea of the surroundings, before giving them private time to talk and be together.”
“The care at Kirkwood has been simply incredible”, explained Sally. “Dad was there for six and a half weeks before he died, and he was very well looked after. The nurses and doctors would always give us regular updates, and we felt assured that dad was given the best possible care. Seeing him smile on those video calls meant the absolute world to mum and to us, and it’s all thanks to the Kirkwood team that this was able to happen.”
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