Words by Abi Scaife
It’s inevitable that one day, we will have to say goodbye to our loved ones - and when that happens, all we can really do is ensure that at the end, they are taken care of. A big player when it comes to caring for people coming to the end of their life are hospices.
Hospice UK is a charity that supports more than 200 hospices across the nation, helping to provide everyone with safety, dignity and comfort at the end of their lives. This is so important, not just for the individual, but the family and friends who are gathered around them and who will be grieving.
“When someone's experiencing palliative and end-of-life care, when someone receives a terminal life-limiting diagnosis, it's important that they are supported and it's as positive an experience as it could possibly be - not just for them but the people close to them,” explains Olivia Warnes, the Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Hospice UK.
“We hear a lot from families, friends and carers about how important the services have been for them. Whether it's just giving them a break … formal counselling or support sessions with other people going through similar things … it's great support for everyone being impacted by death and dying,” Olivia says.
We live in an ageing society - according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged 65 years and over increased from 9.2 million in 2011 to over 11 million in 2021. It’s just reality that this is a sector that desperately needs support, as medical advances keep us alive for longer. This is something that will affect everyone - regardless of background.
Unfortunately, many hospices rely on donations to stay open - something that has been sorely affected by the cost of living. It costs more to run the hospices, and, while people still care, everyone has been affected by the COL crisis - it’s hard to donate when you’re already struggling.
“The people in the community that are always so supportive of the hospice are also facing the cost of living crisis and less able to donate … fundraising is particularly difficult at times like this,” explains Olivia. “A big issue that hospices are facing is knowing how to, now and in the future, keep all of these essential services going while their income and their finances are kind of being so strained.”
In response to this, Hospice UK reached out to their supporters, those who have, or still have, loved ones in the care of hospices. They knew that something needed to change, fundamentally, from the government - and that people needed to speak up. That’s why they asked their supporters to write to their MPs, asking them to do something about the state of hospices in the UK, to help secure their future.
“We rallied our supporters and our members to raise the issue of the cost of living crisis and how it was impacting hospices with the government," says Olivia.
It involved coordinating more than 4000 people to write to their MPs to help secure health for hospices and to raise the issues of the rising costs they were facing.
“It was it was really fantastic to see so many MPs getting that from their constituents - because MPs have a duty to care about what their constituents care about," Olivia explains.
And their hard work paid off, because those thousands of letters successfully triggered a debate in Parliament.
“It was really fantastic to see MPs raising the issue in Parliament, and sharing their experiences with hospices or how important they know their local hospices are. It was really great to see so much engagement and increased awareness of the issue, to see people raising this issue and sharing it so widely across the UK. That it was something so many people cared about so much was really great,” says Olivia.
The incredible response from people across the UK shows just how incredibly important hospices are to our society. They don’t just provide healthcare for people who are terminally ill, they also ensure the time they have left is well-spent, bringing much reassurance to their loved ones.
If you also want to support Hospice UK, you can do so by visiting their website and donating, or by getting involved and volunteering at one of their local hospices.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Marie Curie. They provide care and support for people living with any terminal illness, and their families. Support them here.
Hospice UK. This is the national charity for hospice care. It champions and supports the work of organisations providing hospice care across the UK. Learn more here.
Sue Ryder. They provide palliative and neurological support from our specialist centres and in people's homes. Find out more here.