A pilot scheme designed to help hospice day patients explore their feelings and develop new skills and interests could be extended after proving a great success.
Last year, St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle received a £10,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund to launch its Celebrate Life project, aimed at encouraging and helping those attending its Day Hospice to channel their thoughts and experiences into a range of creative activities.
Since then the Hospice, on Regent Avenue in Gosforth, has been offering patients the chance to take part in a range of sessions based around the six central themes of creative writing, music therapy, horticulture, reminiscence, digital media and mindfulness.
Yasmine Farley, 45, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and epilepsy, has been coming to the day hospice for nine months and has been particularly taken with the creative writing sessions.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “I had never done it before – maybe at school a bit, but never as an adult. I hadn’t really thought of it, but I enjoy the piece of mind it gives me.
“The poetry is an outlet,” she continued. “The words just came out. It didn’t take a great deal of work and it was very clever the way they got us to do it, showing us photographs and things and giving us confidence. It’s about being given permission.”
One of Yasmine’s poems (right) was inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo of an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on VJ Day in 1945.
She said: “There’s no one checking it to say whether it’s good or bad. It’s given me something I would like to continue. I really love coming here.”
Yasmine and her husband Peter, who live in South Gosforth with their two sons, Adam, 13 and Joshua, seven, renewed their wedding vows last year at St Oswald’s.
Assistant chaplain, Davina Radford, who played a part in the ceremony, believes the Celebrate Life project has been invaluable to the patients who have also created memory frames about their lives, enjoyed music sessions and taken part in mindfulness sessions, among many other activities.
“It’s about spiritual care. It gives people the opportunity to try out some different therapeutic ideas,” she said.
“It’s really important to treat the whole person and this project is another way we can offer patient-centred care. Many of the activities we have been doing have been patient led.”
Davina has been helping Yasmine make memory boxes for her boys and has also been involved in the mindfulness sessions.
She explained: “All of us tend to live in the past or the future. Mindfulness helps you learn processes which help you live in the moment It’s really been beneficial to the patients who have been involved in the sessions, especially when it comes to stress reduction.”
As well as the sessions themselves, the grant is also being used to train members of staff and volunteers so the activities can continue when the project ends in June.
Maureen Dews, St Oswald’s Day Hospice team leader, said: “The project is allowing us to build on the activities we already provide to enable our patients to explore the emotional and physical impact of their diagnosis in creative and therapeutic ways.
“It’s helped us to discover more creative ways of capturing patients’ stories which is hugely valuable in helping patients to talk more openly about their lives and experiences and has allowed us as a team to support them more effectively.
“We’re looking forward to developing the project further in the future.”