‘Thorpe Hall is magical at Christmas - it is a happy place. There are lots of laughs, love and support for everyone.’
While many families are tucking into turkey with the trimmings on December 25, for some it will be their last Christmas with loved ones.
And while the festive season will be difficult for many faced with losing a mum, dad, husband or wife, the dedicated team at Thorpe Hall are on hand to provide support for the 20 or so families with patients at the Sue Ryder Hospice.
Andrea Cooper, a staff nurse who has worked at Thorpe Hall for six years said: “It is magical at Christmas. It is a lot more relaxed. We have about 20 different patients, so we have 20 different Christmasses.
“We prioritise care, but really we don’t want to be in people’s way.”
For many patients at Thorpe Hall, Christmas is a time for family, with relatives coming in to visit and spend time with them - and for Andrea and the rest of the staff, making sure the memories last a lifetime is one of the most important jobs.
She said: “We have a Christmas lunch in the atrium for those who wish to have it - and that includes families.
“ Some people wish to have it in their rooms, or some who are well enough go out for lunch.
“It is an emotional time - but we make sure all the patient needs are cared for.
“We want to bring a fun element - in the build-up to Christmas we have had local people in singing carols, we have had bell ringers, patients are encouraged to go Christmas shopping – we plan as much around each individual as we can.
“We all feel so privileged to work here. This is a happy place. It is not all doom and gloom. There are lots of laughs, love and support for everyone.”
Many staff work 12-hour shifts, and balance their own personal Christmas with their work at the hospice.
For Martin Russell, head of support services, the build-up to the big day begins at the start of December, when each room has a Christmas tree put up. Other festive events take place throughout the month.
The kitchen team will cook between 30 and 40 Christmas dinners to patients with a variety of dietary requirements.
Martin said: “ It is very relaxed at Christmas everyone is trying to make Christmas as special as possible . It is open house – some families come in, while others take people out.
“But we also try and make it as normal as possible.It is likely that this will be the last Christmas for many of our patients so we want it to be whatever they want it to be.”
Along with Christmas, Martin is already planning the champagne afternoon tea for New Year’s Eve, and has arranged sherry and mince pies in the afternoons through December.
He said: “It is more emotional at this time of year.
“You try and make every day as special as possible, but it is more emotional for everyone at Christmas.”