Part of the care offered at our Withens Nursing Home in Gravesend, Kent, is palliative care – a phrase which is commonly misunderstood when treating serious illnesses with many confusing it with or considering it the same as end of life care.

However, there is a key difference: palliative care encompasses all care for people living with a terminal illness where a cure is no longer possible (and so includes both the earlier and later stages of an illness), whereas end of life care is just one aspect of palliative care, normally for those whose who are considered to be in their last year of life (although, understandably, this can be difficult to predict).

Through palliative care, at The Withens Nursing Home we treat and manage pain and other physical symptoms associated with the illness. We also help with psychological needs. Treatment can include medicines, therapies, and any additional support that our specialist team believes will help our residents both live in dignity and live their lives to the fullest.

Part of that additional support comes from ellenor, a Kent-based charity that provides physical, emotional and social support – all given free of charge – to people with terminal or life limiting illness as well as providing support for their families and carers. The Care Home Support team at ellenor help our residents with pain control and symptom management and support staff with verification of death. They also support staff dealing with the emotional needs of our residents and their loved ones; these needs can be complex and require a multifaceted approach. Those not needing hospice care can be well looked after in our nursing home with this support and training, for both palliative and end of life care.

“If a GP is busy, we may contact ellenor. They will be here to advise on medication, offer advice and training to staff, and counselling sessions to residents. We have a special relationship with them” — Vida Pazikaite, Deputy Manager & Clinical Lead, The Withens Nursing Home

On 17th October 2018, Christmas came early to The Withens, thanks to ellenor and Kent Life Magazine. For those living with a terminal illness, Christmas and the entire festive period can be an especially sensitive time. In order to raise awareness about palliative care, Kent Life Magazine wrote a feature on the contribution ellenor makes to patient care at Christmas in the hospice in Gravesend and through its palliative care team. As one of the carefully selected nursing homes in Kent that ellenor work closely with, we were delighted when they invited us to be included in their feature.

Culprits: the singing Christmas trees which instigated the not-so-stealthy giggling

As such, the staff at The Withens Nursing Home decided this was the perfect excuse to celebrate Christmas not once, but twice this year. While enjoying a rare Indian summer in England, the Christmas tree and decorations were up, and staff and residents wore suitably silly Christmas jumpers. In the build up to the big day, both residents and staff alike thought they were being sneaky in secretly turning on the miniature singing and dancing Christmas trees. Unfortunately, their constant giggling gave the game away – 007 need not fear that anyone from our nursing home will take away his job!

Our top chefs did us proud by laying on Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and on this occasion, we made excuses for “It’s too early to think about Christmas”. And of course, to add some authenticity to Christmas in October, residents took part in the obligatory post-Christmas dinner nap in the chair.

“Working with ellenor has boosted staff morale and extended our team. We embrace everything they can teach us” — Sam Brown, Activities Coordinator, The Withens Nursing Home

The long-standing relationship between ellenor Hospice and The Withens is such an important feature in the palliative care we provide to people living in our home. We are very proud to have such a strong partnership with ellenor and hope that it continues to grow from strength to strength in the future.

With one Christmas already under their belt, everyone at The Withens Nursing Home is eagerly anticipating the second one just around the corner.

“The Care Home Support team forge a strong relationship with staff in local care homes ensuring they have the confidence to deliver best end of life care for residents with our support” — Linda Coffey, Deputy Director of Care, ellenor

Keeping with that festive spirit, why not pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and read the full feature about our collaborative work in this month’s edition of Kent Life.