A special choral send-off
Social worker Glyn Thomas (who appeared in our Facebook live film in September) works with people living with a terminal illness and their families. He shares a memory of a patient’s final moments that has stuck with him, and explains why giving people emotional support in a hospice is such a special thing to be a part of.
"I mentioned on the Facebook live video that one of our patients had a visit from his choir as he was nearing the end of his life. When this patient first came into the hospice, he talked a lot about his choir and how much he missed singing. It was clearly a really important part of his life.
Inviting the choir in for a visit
"Our patient was getting frailer and was going in and out of consciousness, so we spoke to his parents and friends about inviting his choir to come in and visit him, and they thought it would be something nice to do.
"The choir came in soon after that. They did a little rehearsal downstairs in the café first. Then they came upstairs to his room and sung three of his favourite pieces by his bedside. It was truly beautiful.
"The patient’s father, who hadn’t shown much emotion up to that point, was somehow more able to do so as the music was being sung.
"Hopefully, the choir singing will be what that patient’s family and friends will remember from his last day."
A safe space to talk
"Living with a terminal illness or seeing someone you love going through the experience is a challenging, difficult and traumatic time for patients and families. It’s one of the most difficult points in a person’s life. My work is about helping people to live their lives as fully as possible, and to have as good a death as possible.
"People often open up and talk to me very freely about things which they may not have talked about for years. I think they feel the hospice is a very safe space. Being a part of that is really special and humbling."
Getting into social work
"Before becoming a social worker, I was a costume assistant at the BBC for many years. I worked on period dramas and shows such as Top of the Pops and EastEnders. It sounds glamorous, but it wasn’t really – not when you’re filming at 3am in the middle of a field in the freezing cold!
"I wanted to do something a bit more meaningful, initially I worked in the field of substance abuse working with the police and also at Wandsworth Prison which was fascinating. I then did a Masters in social work.
"My first role after that was a fantastic learning curve. Next came the toughest job I’ve ever done, working as a children's social worker, before I joined Marie Curie. I had worked in the 1990s at London Lighthouse which was a hospice for people living with HIV/AIDS and it was great to be working in a similar field again, 25 years later."
Getting to know people properly
"What I like about my job is having the opportunity to develop relationships with patients and their families, build up trust and get to know them properly.
"It can be very challenging and some patients will always affect you. That’s not something you can do anything about, but I find practising mindfulness and having a supportive team helps a lot.
"It’s really important that people know that hospices are for everybody with a terminal illness. Our hospice is a bright, cheerful and happy place. Although there is of course some sadness, it has a very positive atmosphere and is hopefully a place where people can live as well as possible."