“We have the expertise to make sure everyone gets the help they need. It can be challenging, but it is very rewarding”
Ruth has worked at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Stagenhoe for over 30 years. Now the Unit Lead, she talks about starting out with Sue Ryder, how no two days are ever the same at the centre and the lessons she's learned from her experiences providing unique, compassionate care for people living with neurological conditions.
Ruth, Unit Lead at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Stagenhoe
I qualified in 1979 and always assumed I’d stay working for the NHS my whole career. After I had my first child I had to move and I ended up working for an agency and one of the places I got sent was Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Stagenhoe. I ended up working here several times over the course of a year. After my second maternity leave, I remembered how much I had enjoyed working at the centre so got in touch and the rest is history. I’ve now worked at the centre for over 30 years.
There were several things that appealed to me about working here, which are still true today. There is nothing run-of-the-mill about working here. Each day is different and I have the chance to care for people and gain experience in neurological conditions that I hadn’t really come across in my previous roles.
A different kind of care
When I first started here, the centre was predominantly focused on caring for people with Huntingdon’s Disease. It has changed a bit in recent years, but the unit I lead is still mostly people with the condition. There is no predictability when you are working with people who have Huntingdon’s Disease, so no two days are the same. Some people need a lot of clinical care, which we obviously provide, but there are also people whose physical behaviour is affected.
Historically, there has been a lot of misunderstanding and stigma surrounding those with the condition and a lot of this stemmed from the type of behaviours that someone with Huntingdon’s Disease can exhibit. Here at the centre we have the knowledge and expertise to make sure everyone gets the help they need. It can be challenging, but it is very rewarding and a sense of humour certainly helps.
We are so used to the type of client group we have here that we can forget that some people perhaps aren’t so used to it. There are some clinical things that we do here that new staff members can find difficult at first, the way we work is so different from a traditional care setting that it can be quite challenging for them.
“People who work for us might not be specialists when they arrive, but it is great to see them develop skills and learn how to care for people with complex neurological conditions”
We often have students on placement here at the centre as well. I can remember one, who on first hearing where she was going to be working, saw the word ‘care’ and thought ,‘Oh great, another care home’. At the end of her time with us she did a presentation, talking through her experience, and her mindset had been completely changed. Often people assume that the centre will just be full of elderly people, but that is absolutely not the case, Stagenhoe is definitely not ‘just a care home.’
People who come and work for us might not be specialists when they arrive, but it is great to see them develop skills and learn how to care for people with complex neurological conditions. Communication with the residents is also something that new colleagues can find challenging at first, but often after just a few weeks they will have learnt a great deal about how to communicate with someone who is non-verbal, which is great to see.
“When I’ve given patients and families my time and energy I always come away feeling good about myself”
Paul from Leeds has been a volunteer at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice near Keighley for nine years. Here, he talks about his personal reason for supporting the hospice, as well as the many benefits of becoming a volunteer.
Volunteer Paul doing some gardening in the hospice grounds
Paul is part of a small volunteering team who look after the hospice grounds
An emotional attachment
“My mum was admitted into Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice about 10 years ago and unfortunately she was terminal and passed away but the staff, the facilities and the support were just tremendous.
“The dignity and quality of life that they gave her until the end always stuck with me. So I have an emotional attachment and I always felt like I owed this place something.”
Giving something back
Paul was initially a fundraising volunteer, but the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020 meant that he was unable to carry out his usual activities such as helping out at fundraising events.
“When the government restrictions started to ease I got an email from the hospice asking for some help with grounds maintenance and I thought it was a great opportunity to get back into giving something back.
“You are made to feel so welcome”
“Maintenance volunteering is a very different experience to fundraising as you have more of a set pattern and you know what you’re doing each week. With events you have to think on your feet and you could be doing anything from working behind the bar to giving out water to participants during a cycling event.
“Because I am a keen gardener myself, it’s familiar territory so I feel I can add some skills. I'm left alone to get on with my tasks, but I also like that there’s a team of volunteer gardeners so I can also talk to people and get to know them a bit better. You listen to their stories and personal reasons for being here and you are made to feel so welcome.
“Any spare time that people can give through volunteering is so greatly received because it all adds value”
“Most people get a spark from a nice garden or wildlife, so we try and add a little bit of colour to the grounds and encourage birds into the garden for patients to spot when they look out of the window.
“Family, friends and other visitors might also want to walk around the garden and reflect, and if you can just make that just a little bit better for someone, then that's an immense feeling.
“Any spare time that people can give through volunteering is so greatly received because it all adds value and helps keep this place going. Everyone is busy in their own lives, but when I’ve given patients and families my time and energy I always come away feeling good about myself because I've done something that has potentially made someone's life just a little bit better. Even if it's just a fleeting moment, that’s enough for me.”
No one should have to grieve alone
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Grief can be isolating and scary. But thousands of people grieve without the support they need and the pandemic has made getting help even harder. It’s so important that they don’t have to cope alone.
That’s why we’re creating a national movement of kindness around grief. We’ll start conversations, share as many different stories as we can and give more people the confidence to help someone they love.
We all have it in us to be Grief Kind. So let’s meet grief with warmth and compassion. And, together, we can make sure the people we love get the support they need to cope.
As we roll out this national movement around kindness around grief, we will update our Work for Good blogs to keep our supporters up to date.