'I never realised how much hospices do until I experienced one myself'

Rick and Isobel have been together for 28 years - but their lives were shattered last July when he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.

Rick and Isobel remain devoted to each other after 28 years together.

But their lives were shattered last July when Rick was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given just six months to live.

Fit and strong from climbing mountains and cycling, Rick’s health quickly deteriorated. Isobel nursed him at home but – when it became difficult to provide the care he needed – she was relieved when he was offered a bed at Accord Hospice in Paisley, Renfrewshire.

“The staff are fantastic,” Isobel told Scotland Tonight. “They look after me and Rick. He’s getting the best of care. They do everything in here and even sing and dance to keep him going and he loves it.

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“It’s been a terrible shock. I’m just dreading when it all comes round, that’s when maybe I’ll collapse.”

Charge nurse Alison Auld not only cares for patients like Rick, but for their loved ones too. She’s worked at the hospice for eight years.

Whether people are there for days or months, Alison’s priority is to bring peace and dignity to their last moments.

Ms Auld said: “We’ve got a lot of patients who, with the disease they have, they end up where they have got no movement in the lower half of their body. 

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“I can remember putting a man in the bath one day and his legs were moving about in the water. And I mean, he was mesmerised with that.

“After that, he was in the bath everyday. It’s just being able to give people things like that and just the same man, actually we took him outside one day and he said, ‘I can’t believe I can hear the birds singing again for the first time in years’, cause he had lived in a flat and hadn’t been outside.

“It’s a privilege for me to be able to give that to people.”

Hospices exist to provide care for people with life-limiting illnesses.

Across Scotland, around 21,000 adults and children rely on hospice care.

At Accord, a registered charity, the staff look after 100 inpatients every year – 60% go back home again and 40% stay there until the end of their lives.

Jacki Smart, CEO of Accord Hospice.STV News

Less than half of the hospice’s funding comes from statutory services or the NHS, so they are reliant on fundraising and public support.

Jacki Smart, CEO of Accord Hospice, told Scotland Tonight about the special care provided in hospices throughout the country.

She said: “We stop focusing on people’s diagnosis and start focusing on their symptoms to make those last days and months of their life more bearable and comfortable.

“You can die with a bit more dignity and be in the places that you want. The biggest part of our job is to say, ‘what’s important to you now?’ We like to add life to days rather than days to life.”

Most of Accord’s work is in the local community, with a further 1,700 individuals looked after at home in the past year.

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June Boyd is one of five community nurses who works for Accord, treating people at home who have a terminal illness. A huge part of her job is to provide emotional support to patients and their families.

“Sometimes we don’t want to speak about dying to our loved ones and families because it’s distressing,” she said.

“We don’t want to leave. People can have fears about leaving their family and how they’re going to cope. We sit with people and we listen and sometimes that’s all it takes. We try to do what’s important to them.”

As well as a dedicated team of staff, Accord is dependent on the work of more than 300 volunteers, ranging from those who give up their time to work in the local shops to those who offer peer support.

Lawrence Gilgallon took early retirement in 2006 and since then has been helping out at the hospice running a weekly quiz with the group Chatter Matters.

“I absolutely love it,” he said.

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“I think there’s a misconception that the hospice is a dreary place but coming here has opened by eyes and I would encourage others to volunteer and give up their time.

“When I do the quiz it is educational, everyone participates and it is fun.”

Watch Scotland Tonight: Preparing for the End at 8.30pm on Thursday or catch up on the STV Player.

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