Day Services – providing a lifeline through lockdown for patients
Debbie Dickenson has been calling Day Services patients weekly to check in and have a chat
One of Weldmar Hospicecare’s core provisions is Day Services, where patients in the community can join together for one day a week, and enjoy social activities and companionship, games, puzzles, art and crafts, and more with each other and our team of staff and volunteers.
As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic started to grow in the UK, the difficult decision was taken to cancel Day Services, which ran in Weymouth, Dorchester, Bridport, Blandford, and Shaftesbury.
After fourteen weeks, Day Services are starting again, albeit in a reduced capacity at Trimar House in Weymouth only, on Mondays and Tuesdays. But our patients haven’t been forgotten during that time – Debbie Dickinson has been calling every one of them each week.
“I’ve got a list of all forty names and numbers,” says Debbie, who is Weldmar’s Day Services Assistant, “and I’ll call them on the day that they would normally come in. Some are happy with a quick check-in, but others love a more social chat. Some of the calls can last up to an hour because the patient can feel quite isolated and welcome a chat with someone outside of their family.”
“I had a lovely conversation with someone a few weeks ago. She said, ‘You girls are lovely. It’s nice to talk to people who actually have the time to talk and genuinely care. You’ve really helped me get through a difficult and emotional time when my mum died, and helped with the family issues that followed.’ It’s nice to know we can make that kind of difference.”
Some of the conversations Debbie has been having are understandably difficult. “One lady said they only other person she’s spoken to is her son – through her letterbox. A number of patients are in flats with no outside space, and have to stay inside as they are shielding.”
“It’s quite difficult not being with them in person and being able to give them a hug or reassuring touch of the arm. If I am particularly worried about anyone, I can refer them to a Weldmar Community Nurse or someone else appropriate.”
Of course, there have been happier, fun, and even unusual conversations with patients. Debbie says she called one patient who had woken up that morning to find that the clematis in her garden had been dug up and stolen in the night! “That caused some bemusement,” says Debbie, “and there was also a patient who became a grandparent for the first time during lockdown. It was difficult in that they couldn’t see the new baby straight away, but obviously lots of joy too. I talk to a lady who has MND every week, who is such a lovely person and it means the world to her that I’ve kept in touch.”
Debbie’s discovered that some patients have been developing digital skills for the first time, and using apps such as FaceTime to keep in contact with family. One group of patients, who meet at Day Services in Blandford, have also been providing mutual support by emailing each other on a regular basis.
As well as the weekly calls, Debbie has also tried to support patients in other ways. At the start of lockdown, with supermarket home delivery slots almost impossible to arrange, she called independent shops to see if they could help out – which a number of them did.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing patients again when Day Services resumes next week,” explains Debbie, “it will feel like we’re getting the ball rolling and that we have some light at the end of the tunnel. Of course not everybody will be able to attend due to shielding or transport, so the phone calls will continue until we can welcome them back safely.”