Why I love caring for people through the night

Sally has been a Marie Curie Nurse for over 24 years. She still remembers with affection the families she first cared for and says the job has taught her – and her children – some valuable life lessons.

“As a district nurse, I used to look after people with terminal illness. I’d leave at 5pm. But it seemed wrong to leave people overnight where they might die on their own. That’s what made me start doing shifts with Marie Curie. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Every night is different. You just don’t know what you’ll be going to, or who you’ll be meeting. It feels quite natural for me to go into people’s home though. Feeling that you’ve made a difference is fantastic.

Even my nursing friends say: “I don’t know how you do it”. But it’s not depressing or sad work, it’s very positive and rewarding. You come out feeling happy that you’ve been able to help.

Calm and peaceful

Being there when someone dies is where my expertise lies. I know what needs to be done so everything happens smoothly for the patient and their family.

I recently looked after the mother of a consultant. He couldn’t believe our skilled overnight care was available. He was gobsmacked. He said: “I wouldn’t have known what to do without you – you just made it so much easier and she went peacefully”.

You do make a difference to people – to the end of their lives, which in many ways is just as important as the start.

To see someone die calmly and peacefully helps people to recover, and not be so frightened of death.

Attending to younger people can be really hard. For young children it can be very hard to think of how their lives will be without their parent.

Doing things your own way

Lots of things have changed over the years, but families are the same. I still remember some of the families I first cared for. You never forget them – you drive past their houses and remember being with them and how it felt. Death hasn’t changed though. People still choose to do things in their own way, even in their last moments.

My own children have got used to me coming home and telling them about my night – often telling them that my lovely patient had died. They’ve learned life is precious and doesn’t last forever.

It came home to me when my dad was really poorly at home. The children were around his bed. They were just chatting away to him as if it was normal. They didn’t want to go to their swimming lesson and spent the evening at his bedside. He died peacefully in the early hours. The children were just so pleased they spent their last evening with Grandad.”

Support the Great Daffodil Appeal this March, and help us care for people living with any terminal illness. Every donation made, every daffodil worn – it all helps nurses like Sally be there when families them most.