The families and carers of patients who are in the last 12 months of life can now relax in a calming environment away from the wards after East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) opened two calming Butterfly Service and Information Centres.
The centres offer a valuable opportunity for respite away from the bedside, along with the chance to enjoy a cup of tea and chat with one of ESNEFT’s Butterfly volunteers, who support end of life patients and their families. People can also drop in for information, non-clinical advice and signposting from the Butterfly Service coordinators.
Both centres are open on weekdays between 9.30am and 3.30pm. People can find the Ipswich centre (pictured above) near the main Outpatients’ Department at entrance six, and the Colchester centre (pictured below) close to the entrance of the Gainsborough Wing.
Karen Hobbs, clinical project lead for end of life care at ESNEFT, said: “We are delighted that these centres are now open. They will give relatives and carers all-important time away from the bedside, while our fantastic volunteers will also be on hand to offer support, a cup of tea or simply a listening ear.
“The centres will also help us to provide practical information and signpost patients and families to other agencies where necessary.”
ESNEFT’s Butterfly volunteers support families and carers while also providing comfort to patients at the end of life by showing them they are not alone.
Former nurse Jane Cole joined the team at Ipswich around a year ago for a variety of both professional and personal reasons, and describes the role as “humbling”.
She said: “During my career, I was lucky enough to work on maternity wards at the beginning of life. I feel that being there at the end is just as much of a privilege.
“My son died in my arms in Ipswich Hospital in 2009, and three years ago his widow also died. I therefore thought I had both the personal and professional experience to offer the support that patients and their families may need.
“Spending time with somebody at the end of their life is an honour for me, and a relief and cushion for their families. I value the sense that I sometimes feel that the patient knows I am there and can hear me. I also know it is something that nursing staff would do if they had the time, and therefore hope I am supporting them too.”
Caroline Dow (pictured below) joined the team late last year and is thoroughly enjoying supporting patients and their families.
“I was particularly drawn to this role because I don’t like to think of anyone being on their own at the end of their lives,” said Caroline. “I hope that just being with someone may make their passing a bit more comfortable. I also know how hard it can be for a patient’s family or loved ones, so am happy to chat with them or give them a break if they need time out.
“Unlike a lot of people, I’ve always liked hospitals. Every single person working there, from the surgeons to the cleaners, is trying to improve the quality of life for the patient. Feeling that I’m part of that team means a lot to me.
“I hope that the patients I see know or sense that someone is there who cares about them. I’ve also met some lovely spouses, children and grandchildren who have really appreciated a chance to talk about their loved one.
“I would encourage others to consider joining our team. You need to care about people and have empathy with them, while it’s also important to see death as something natural and not be frightened or upset by it.”
ESNEFT’s Butterfly volunteers are funded by Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity. Anyone interested in finding out more about joining the team at Ipswich Hospital can call 07342 074834. For opportunities in Colchester, ring 07342 074790.
Patients in the last year of life, together with their families and carers, are also welcome to call the numbers for emotional support, advice and signposting for all non-clinical concerns.
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