Cerysa Doherty joined the Francis House hospice team in 2016, in April this year she was appointed Clinical Lead at the teenage and young adult unit Francis Lodge.
She tells us about the care services since the outbreak of the Coronavirus and how support is being provided to vulnerable children and their families.
‘I am responsible for overseeing the care of the young people with life-limiting conditions when they are staying at Francis Lodge for respite. But with COVID-19, families are shielding, and regular respite arrangements have been replaced by emergency respite for families who have experienced problems and unable to care for their young people at home.
‘At present, the hospice is providing symptom control, end of life care, emergency respite and telephone support.
‘Many families have stopped carers coming into their homes, so the hospice team are in constant contact, ringing them on a regular basis to see how they are. This support is a real lifeline and comfort to them.
‘Having a child that is so vulnerable adds to their anxiety. Families are having to provide 24-hour care, day in day out with no end in sight. Without any support, they are getting desperate and are struggling.
‘We are offering as much support as we can, and we have procedures in place to keep them safe as they leave their little shielding group. Staff are wearing different levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the child’s clinical needs.
‘Francis Lodge has been structured to meet this level of need, as well as provide areas for end of life care.
‘The young people are now separated in their rooms to keep them safe. We take activities and the mobile sensory unit into them and they are still doing lots of fun things despite the fact we are wearing PPE.
‘Not having everybody here at the hospice has been difficult. We are used to Francis House and Francis Lodge being full, hearing karaoke in the lounge, the young lads talking about football, someone having a beauty session in creative therapy or a child having a chill out in the multisensory room, and it’s not like that at the moment.
‘The highlight of my job is talking to the families and still making a difference with advice and simply being there for them.
‘It feels very hard when we haven’t got everybody having a ball and coming for respite because that is what we are about. But families are telling us that we have made such a difference to them.
‘They are so grateful to be able to take their child to somewhere that they trust and have that break that they desperately need. It speaks volumes about Francis House and what we do.
‘Over the coming months, we hope to offer as many families as possible some limited respite and much-needed rest before the end of the year.
‘When we are able to have our families back, we are trained, prepared and ready to step up to meet that need.
‘What we are doing is amazing and humbling, without a doubt it is the best job in the world.’
For more information visit www.francishouse.org.uk