How Hospice at Home nurses cared for my Pops

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Written by: Nuala Dimitriou

When John was diagnosed with dementia, Nuala gave up her job to care for her beloved Pops at home. She didn't know the Hospice could support people with Dementia but Nuala tells us how the Hospice at Home 'angels' made a difference in the final weeks of her Dad, John's life.

My Pops was the gentlest of men, a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He was born and raised in Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland. He came to the UK in the 50s as a young man, having lost his own Dad at the age of 6 and his Mum by the age of 12.   


He worked hard all his life.  He had the best sense of humour, and there was never a dull moment in his company.  I would be woken most mornings by the sound of his whistling.  He was loved and respected by all who knew him and adored by his family. He married my Mum in 1959 and that was the start of one amazing love story that lasted 64 years. 

20230728_193953Nuala enjoys listening to her Pops playing the accordion


Dad was 80 when he was diagnosed with dementia in 2012.

It is dreadful to watch someone you love die of dementia. However, he kept his sense of humour throughout and having spent three months in Queen’s Hospital in 2015, even the doctors and nurses commented that he must always have been the loveliest-natured man as not even the dementia took that from him. Amazingly, he always knew me and Mum and my husband. He used to call mum 'Flower' and he would say, Nu, where is Flower? Once he could see her face and my face, life was good. 


John and his 'flower' on their wedding day


Christmas 2019 was our last Christmas together. Although it wasn’t confirmed, I knew in my heart that my darling Pops was on a major decline. Having given up work to care for him from 2017 and being with him constantly, I couldn’t fail to notice this.   


It was at this time that a friend of mine mentioned Saint Francis Hospice. I had no idea the hospice had a Hospice at Home team, or that they dealt with dementia patients.  In my mind, it was always cancer patients.  I therefore took the plunge and made the call right after New Year.  From the start of that phone call to the very end, I was shown compassion and love.   


It was always just the three of us, Dad, Mum and me as I didn't have any brothers or sisters. We kept Dad at home. He was the best dad and the best husband you could wish for. It was payback time and an honour to care for him. But there were things that you did not know how to do. That's where these wonderful girls came in. 


Nuala gave up her job to care for her Dad when he was diagnosed with Dementia


Lillian, oh lovely, lovely Lilian was the first lady across the door and into our lives.  She was the nurse who came to do an assessment. I desperately hoped she would tell us that my Pops wasn’t ready for hospice at home care /palliative care and that we still had a long way to go. Sadly, it was not the case.  A two-week timeframe was given and almost two weeks to the day, on 18th January 2020 at 3.20pm my darling Pops closed his eyes forever.  The worst day of mine and my Mummy’s lives.  


During the final two weeks, we had a flurry of the most wonderful ladies, Julie, Karen, Lena, Anne and Lilian, coming into our home. They enabled my Mum to be a wife and me a daughter again, not just Dad's carers.  Kindness, love, happiness, sadness every emotion anyone can muster up, were felt and experienced during that fortnight.  

They came with amazing ideas. Dad couldn't swallow solid food, so the nurses suggested ice lollies. He loved them. Not only was it fluid, but also flavoured. The cold stimulated his throat. He got his taste back and was smiling once again - something that I once took for granted. 


Nuala with Hospice at Home Nurse, Julie, who made such a difference in the last weeks of John's life


The day before dad died, Julie pulled out every stop to get my dad a comfortable mattress, she organised nurses to come out with a syringe driver to make him comfortable and she stayed longer than she should have. She went above and beyond. It is clear from the way they cared for Dad and our family that this was a vocation and they loved what they do because they showed it and we felt it. 


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