Shirley MacKenzie’s mother, Agnes, was able to spend her final months in her own house, thanks to Hospital at Home. Here, Shirley tells us in her own words how much it meant that her mum was able to have her final wish of a peaceful death at home.
My mum Agnes was diagnosed with aggressive B cell lymphoma in June 2019 and she completed her treatment in November of that year.
Over the winter, mum kept in reasonable health, joining in with family occasions and seeing friends. Then COVID-19 changed everything and she became a shielded patient.
Fortunately she was able to maintain independent living, with her family visiting her in the garden and bringing her groceries. We were so lucky with the good weather which made the isolation easier. We were also very lucky to be able to use video technology, and she used this to keep in contact with us daily as well as with the family abroad.
In mid-June she became more unwell, developing extreme tiredness, breathlessness and back discomfort. Because she was became worse over a few days, we contacted the Beatson who directed her to her GP. Mum was reluctant to go to hospital so her GP said he would contact the Hospital at Home service operating in NHS Lanarkshire.
Same day service
A nurse from Hospital at Home came out to visit her the same day. She carried out an assessment, observations and blood tests. Later that morning, a hospital consultant came to the house, retook her history and examined her. The consultant then explained to mum that her very high calcium level, which was related to her underlying disease, was contributing to the deterioration in her symptoms. She said that she could provide some treatment that might offer some improvement to mum’s current symptoms. She then liaised with the specialists at the Beatson about what, if any, additional treatment might help mum’s underlying condition, as well as looking at community resources to provide aids that could help her maintain a safe home environment. These were delivered later that same day.
Later on in the day of her first contact with Hospital at Home, my mum was given intravenous fluids. The following day she received intravenous medicine to help lower the high calcium. At all times, the service’s staff were very professional, helpful, sympathetic and considerate of her wishes. Their communication and explanations to my mother and our family were excellent.
A final wish fulfilled
Initially, my mum picked up a bit following this treatment and a few days later the Hospital at Home service discharged her to the care of her GP and McMillan Nursing Services.
However, she deteriorated quickly in the end and died peacefully at home, being cared for by her family. Her wishes were to be cared for in her own home and to die there, if this was possible. If it had not been for The Hospital at Home services, social services, her GP, and the support of the family, I don’t think this would have been as comfortable or indeed possible to achieve.
Throughout her contact with the service, my mum was aware that the treatment offered was for symptom control and that her disease was progressing. She was comfortable and less anxious in her own familiar surroundings than she would have been in a hospital ward and said she felt more in control. It allowed her to continue to have her family around her – an important consideration for her, especially in recent times.