Over the years I have had a lot of contact with hospices, both in my ministry and personal life.
My father died in a hospice after several years of battling with cancer and I visited many parishioners and their families who benefitted from the medical support and care the staff and environment offered. I know this will be an experience shared by many people across Doncaster.
Before having contact with the hospice movement I had, like many, assumed that they were places where people went to die and therefore a place to be feared.
For many, death is the big taboo subject to be avoided at all costs. Like others, I discovered that they were far removed from that image. They are places that offer tailored care for families and patients, they are an environment in which life is celebrated, where the uniqueness of the individual is respected, they are places of fun and laughter where the chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and anguish and loss can be held in a safe environment for those of faith or no faith at all.
They are, of course, places of expertise where appropriate medical care and pastoral support can be offered by trained professional staff and volunteers.
Hospice care can change lives. A quarter of a million patients are cared for by hospices in the UK each year.
In addition to providing care in a hospice the movement also provides home care which is greatly valued by patients and family.
I was then delighted to accept a recent invitation to become an appeal patron of St John’s Hospice here in Doncaster. The hospice is undergoing a major redevelopment and refurbishment to make it an even better environment than it already is.
The hospice has been touching people’s lives for over 21 years and is very much part of our community.
It looks after an average of 259 in-patients and 325 day care patients per year with an estimated 2,000 relatives and friends visiting and receiving support.
During the year the hospice has held a number of fund-raising events towards the cost of the refurbishment and is supported by many local individuals, businesses and organisations.
We may find it difficult to believe that whilst the hospice movement in Europe has been growing since the 11th century there has been times when it has been unpopular. However, hospice care is very much at the forefront of care for the chronically, terminally or seriously ill patients and their families and the whole medical profession has benefitted enormously from the treatments and care they’ve pioneered.
Hospices offer hope to patients and families alike, they offer hope of dignified care and a dignified death.
* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster