Pets, music and parties? Six things you didn’t know about our hospices

Marie Curie Hospices provide all kinds of support for people living with any terminal illness and their families. But just what are our hospices like, and what do we do to meet people’s different needs?

As part of this year's Hospice Care Week, here are six things that we think might surprise you about our hospices.  

Pets as therapy: Dogs and other animals can have a really positive effect on the people we care for at our hospices.

1) We welcome pets.

We know that being around animals can bring joy to the people we support. That’s why many of our hospices have regular visits from our canine friends who are part of the Pets as Therapy programme.

And for those people staying at our hospices, we’d encourage them to bring in their dogs, cats or other pets for a visit, like Shirlie, who could spend precious moments with Buffy, one of her five cats, while she was cared for at our Belfast hospice.

Susan, her daughter, remembers how much this meant to her mum. “My mum lived on her own so her cats were her companions and family, not just a pet.

“I brought Buffy to the hospice three times. Buffy didn’t even bother exploring – she was completely at home. She loved sitting on Mum’s bed, or, if Mum was sitting on a chair, then on her knee.”

Feel Good Friday: People can have a good time enjoying each other's company - and some do get up and dance!

2) We love to throw a good party.

There’s always an excuse for a celebration at our hospices. Whether it’s a graduation event, a wedding ceremony or the countdown to Christmas, our hospice staff try their best to make these moments extra special for the people we care for.

At our Glasgow hospice, the popular Feel Good Friday sessions brings patients, families and staff members together so they can mingle, listen to live music and have a great time.

Healthcare Assistant Rosemary Young tells us why these sessions provide a great boost for those who join in. “Music can bring back fond memories for some people, helping them to relax and bond with others. 

"We don’t take things too seriously – it’s all about making sure people can have a good time. You can tell that they are when they tap their feet, clap their hands and sing along to the songs.

“I think there’s still a misconception out there that a hospice means gloom and doom. Because if you happen to be at our hospice on a late Friday morning, you will certainly hear music and laughter!”

David, Dudley (a  fellow out-patient) and Joe play a lively rendition of 'Hound dog'

3) We use art and music to help people.

As music can have a really positive impact on people’s wellbeing, our hospices provide music therapy sessions where people can sing along, play an instrument or even compose their own songs. We also offer art therapy so people can express themselves by drawing, painting and creating works of art.

David, who attends day therapy groups at our Hampstead hospice, says these sessions have helped him to focus on living instead of being consumed by his illness.   

“I’ve become more myself through music and art therapy, and have since started working every day on creating both. It’s good for me, and it makes me feel good about others.”

Service with a smile
Service with a smile: At our hospices, we always try to cater to people's dietary needs.

4) We cook up all sorts of comfort food.

Ian, head chef at our Bradford hospice, often goes the extra mile to cater to people’s taste and dietary needs, especially if they’ve been poorly and lack appetite for food and drink. 

Ian says: “We’ll ask what kind of food they fancy or we’ll say, 'Just try a little soup'. It’s great for us to be able to help people to improve their appetite.

“Families are usually pleased to see their loved ones taking food, especially if they haven’t done so for days. When people stop eating, it’s almost like they’ve given up. Changing that mindset gives their relatives a little bit of reassurance.”

As our hospices are all open over Christmas, our chefs make sure everyone we look after has a home-cooked dinner so they too can celebrate the festive season with their loved ones.  

Our hospices provide care and support for people living with any terminal illness and their families, from the point of diagnosis right until the end.

5) We’re here for people at any point during their illness.

Contrary to what many people think, our hospices are not just places for people to spend their last few days or weeks of life.

Helen, manager at our Newcastle hospice, explains: “When someone comes into the hospice for our support, we make sure they have the chance to enjoy a better quality of life, for as long as possible.

“So while some of them may come in for a few days or weeks for care towards the end of their lives, many others attend a hospice at much earlier stages of their illness for help and support with their symptoms so they, and their family members, can manage at home.”

Happy together: Marie Curie supporter Michelle Beaver with her family

6) We couldn’t do everything we do without our supporters and volunteers.

The care and support we provide are always free for the people we look after. And we can only continue doing what we do thanks to our fantastic supporters and volunteers in the local communities where our hospices are based.

Supporters like Michelle Beaver, who has volunteered and raised money for Marie Curie over the years, as both her mother and aunt received care at our Liverpool hospice.

Michelle says: “All of the nurses did their very best to get Mom settled. Any time she was unsettled, they were there with her to try to sort it out. They just try to make everything the best they can for people.

“It’s my family’s experiences with Marie Curie that made me think: ‘This is the charity for me.’ I’d always loved doing things for charity but I’d never found the one that felt right. Now I have.”

Find out more about the nine Marie Curie Hospices across the UK and how they can help if you or someone you know is living with a terminal illness.

If you’re interested in supporting your local Marie Curie Hospice, here’s how you can do so.