Dorothy House – Hospice Care
Dorothy House provides compassionate care and support for people in our community with a life-limiting illness. Their focus is on quality of life, helping patients to live well and die well.
Dorothy House gives care and support to patients and their families across a 700sq mile area, which includes Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES), and parts of Wiltshire and Somerset. The services are provided whenever and wherever they are needed; at home, in the Hospice, or in the community. Dorothy House respects the uniqueness of each patient and their family and empowers them to choose the type of care they receive.
Emma chatted to Karen Tudge, Assistant Director of Patient and Family Services about her role, what inspires her each day and the important work of Dorothy House and the value of cookery skills to clients.
How long have you worked for Dorothy House?
I first joined Dorothy House as an Occupational Therapist in 2008, due to personal circumstances I had to leave in 2010. However, I loved working for Dorothy House so much that I was lucky enough to be able to come back and work as an Occupational Therapist in 2013 with the team and I have been here ever since.
What are your current role and your background?
I have recently been lucky enough to start a new job as Assistant Director of Patient and Family Services. As part of my role I support and provide oversight to the Inpatient Unit, Family Support Teams, Day Services Teams, Therapies, Lymphoedema, Clinical Coordination Centre and the hospice at home team. I qualified in 1997 from Liverpool University and have really enjoyed a variety of OT roles over many clinical areas around the country. My husband was in the RAF so being deployed to other areas of the country did enable me to work in different areas and develop a love for working in Palliative and End of life Care. We have now settled in Wiltshire with our 2 children and we love it.
Did you always want to work in this area of work?
I have always really enjoyed working alongside patients and their families and in all areas, I have the ability to do this. My love for Palliative Care and End of Life care came when I worked in York Accident and Emergency and I would see many patients being admitted to the unit when there wasn’t the support and equipment available to them to manage their symptoms at home. Through working with the A&E team we were able to try and facilitate a timely return home with the correct equipment, services and hospice support in place to enable people to be able to be cared for in their preferred place of care.
What do you love about your job? What inspires you each day?
Working with the teams at Dorothy House and alongside other palliative care teams in the acute hospitals is a privilege. The patients and families continue to inspire me every day to come to work and to be part of this part of their lives. I still enjoy carrying out clinical shifts both at the main site at Winsley and within the community. Being able to listen, support and provide time to a patient and family at this time is so important.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Never quite knowing what the day will bring and having a planned day that often needs to be rearranged at short notice. Whilst this is the most challenging part of the day this can often be the most rewarding as I am often asked to cover short notice AL within Occupational Therapy and the Inpatient Unit so I do get the privilege and joy of working with the patients and families.
What is a common misconception people have about hospices and how do you challenge that?
The biggest misconception is that Hospices are a sad places where people go to die. Dorothy House is the happiest and funniest place that I have ever worked. We support any adult that has a life-limiting illness that is within the last 1000 days of life. We have a fantastic gym facility at Winsley that is the envy of many mainstream gyms and our wellbeing programme enables patients who would benefit from early intervention to provide coping strategies and information to enable people to focus on what matters most to them. Patients and Families are the best advocates for what we do so any feedback and any patient experiences that we can use to spread the word of how hospices aren’t a sad place to go is always embraced.
Tell me a bit about the work that the occupational therapists do with patients and indeed the families of patients.
Occupational therapy provides practical support to empower people to facilitate recovery and overcome barriers preventing them from doing the activities (or occupations) that matter to them. This support increases people’s independence and satisfaction in all aspects of life. “Occupation” as a term refers to practical and purposeful activities that allow people to live independently and have a sense of identity. This could be essential day-to-day tasks such as self-care, work or leisure.
Think about your day-to-day life; would you be able to cope or live fully if you didn’t have access to the internet? Or couldn’t get out of bed in the morning?
For many or the majority of our patients and families, they have lost some ability to undertake and participate in activities that matter to them. This may be going to the pub, meeting family, being able to hold a golf club or simply being able to wash their hair. This is where Occupational Therapy comes in.
It is proven that early, integrated palliative rehabilitation improves the quality of life of patients with newly diagnosed advanced cancer.
You also have a lot of volunteers working at Dorothy House, what roles do they get involved with?
We currently have approx. 1200 volunteers across all our services at Dorothy House. Our volunteers are vital in the smooth running and the ability to provide the services that we provide. We couldn’t function without them. The range of teams that use volunteers are:
Retail – to support shops open and raise essential funds to support Dorothy House to provide care support to patients and families.
Fundraising – to support all of our fundraising events – from marshalling to getting dressed up and running marathons, paddle boarding, supporting our Rugby Walks and our Friends of Dorothy House Groups enable us to organise and set up fundraising events to towns across our 700 Sq. miles.
Clinical – we have volunteers that provide complementary therapy to our patients and families, psychotherapists, therapy assistants, day-patient unit support, inpatient unit meal time hosts, admin and stock management
Supporting service – Volunteer drivers ensure that our patients are able to reach appointments within the hospice and community groups, delivering daily medication and units of bloods from the RUH to Dorothy House, reception support.
The list goes on and on and I really can’t think of one team that doesn’t have the help of one of our amazing volunteers.
What other activities do you do with patients?
We will always be guided by the patient and ask them ‘What matters to you most’. This enables us to be able to work alongside our patients to really support their needs and wishes. This can often be about managing symptoms and the support from our other professional colleagues are vital in supporting. We also provide wellbeing and self-management courses on how the person and family can be supported with non-pharmacological management of pain relief, fatigue, nausea and vomiting and managing daily living skills. We also help our patients to prioritise their activities so they don’t become too fatigued.
What support and activities do you provide for families during care and after a patient’s death? How long is the support there for?
We provide support for the patient and families for as long as is required. We have a range of services that support and all have different levels of support. From drop-in groups to 1:1 support. We also work closely with our community colleagues from other organisations to be able to signpost people to other services if their needs could be met by someone else in a more efficient way e.g. Age UK and Carers Wiltshire,
What would you say are the key attributes you need to work in a hospice in any job role?
Willingness to listen and react to quick changes of the patient and family
The ability to listen
Tell us a bit about the funding challenges you face as a charity? How much do you need each year to continue?
As with many independent charities, we can only function due to the generous donations received from the community. We do have a small amount of funding provided to us from the NHS but this currently only equates to 30% of the total funding needed to run our services. Last year we cared for over 3,000 people in our community. But, in order to continue to be there for those that need us, we have to raise over £10 million each year and we can’t do this on our own.
In what ways can people support the work of Dorothy House?
We provide frontline hospice care to support people in our community who are living with a life-limiting illness – but we can’t do this without your help. There are lots of ways to get involved – you can take part in an event, host your own, volunteer your time, play in our lottery or take on an epic challenge! See the bottom of this interview for details of how to get involved.
How do you unwind and relax after a busy day?
I love to go for walks at the weekend and feel lucky that I have some great walks on my doorstep. I love to go out for meals and spend time with family and friends. My family all live in the North of the country so spending time with my friends is so important to me. I am also hoping to be able to go to Italy this year – I do try and go as often as I can – I have missed travel.
Do you like to cook? What is your favourite thing to cook?
I love cooking – sadly my waistline is a testament to that. I love cooking puddings and cakes… I am certainly no Mary Berry but I do enjoy having a go… I also love BBQ’s usually because we have friends over to sit in the garden – I then enjoy making salads and coleslaws.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Prawn Cocktail crisps – in fact, I would say any type of crisps… I am addicted…
Where do you like to eat out locally?
I love Italian food and wine – to be honest, I would eat anywhere that served Italian food. I also love a BBQ on the beach so whilst not local, my go-to place for eating is always a BBQ on the beach.
Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
I would love to have dinner with Gino D’Acampo – I could learn so much about Italy and also have a giggle at the same time.
Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand’s Prime Minister – she is amazing and a true role model.
Amelia Earheart – she must have been so brave…..
My Pop (grandad) was a Northerner through and through and made me smile every time we went to see him.
Favourite dessert: Homemade Tiramisu
Favourite vegetable: Broccoli
Favourite cheese: Rocquefort
Favourite fish: Mackerel (on the BBQ)
Favourite meat: Lamb
Favourite drink: Gin and Tonic
Favourite TV chef: Gino D’Acampo
Any special words to live by? : Recognise, Reflect and Resolve.
I use these 3 words in my work life when considering challenges and reflecting on practice but I have found them to be incredibly useful when faced with personal challenges also – it helps provide structure to thinking rather than allowing your head to create situations that may not happen.
Look at the blades of grass
Look at the small things and recognise how wonderful life is.
If you would like any more information on how to get involved then please visit our website on Get involved – Dorothy House or call 0345 0130 555 where someone will be able to support you