Local charity Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care is launching a pilot online version of a selection of its Living Well sessions, to connect patients who have been and still are unable to come to the Hospice or Beacon Centre during the pandemic.
Phyllis Tuckwell’s Living Well service helps patients and their families to manage the impact of their illness, and cope with living their everyday life. It offers a range of therapeutic sessions to promote physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. These are usually held at the Hospice in Farnham and the Beacon Centre in Guildford, but the groups were suspended when lockdown was introduced, so patients could only be supported from a distance by phone or video calls. Now, however, five of the sessions – Tai Chi, Relaxation, Carer Support, Reminiscence and the Rainbow Project – are being trialled on Zoom.
Each session will be offered to a maximum of eight participants, with small groups enabling the staff running the session to ensure that everyone is included and being supported throughout the whole session.
“We held our first Tai Chi session last week and it went really well,” said Phyllis Tuckwell Physiotherapist Sue O’Brien. “Everyone was really pleased to be part of a group again, and at the end one of the participants said they had felt very isolated during lockdown, and asked if they could stay on and have a chat with the others in the group – so as well as being a way in which we could run the Tai Chi session, it also became a valuable communication tool to help combat loneliness.”
The pilot will test a range of different sessions. Some will be mainly staff-led, such as Relaxation, which helps participants to relax their body and then takes them through a guided meditation where they imagine walking along a beach, for example. Others will involve more discussion, such as Reminiscence, where participants share memories with each other, based around a subject such as holidays or their childhood.
“Sharing memories and talking about our past has positive effect on self-esteem,” says Phyllis Tuckwell Health Care Assistant Nick Ritchie. “Sometimes people who are ill start to define themselves by their illness, so to talk about past experiences and achievements helps them to re-establish their own identity and build their confidence.”
Another session which is starting up in September is the Rainbow Project. Staff will send out a pack of coloured paper, with each colour being allocated a subject: red is love, orange is memories, yellow relationships, green nature, blue places and purple music. Patients are then asked to create something for each subject, using any media they like – for example they could knit love hearts, draw a picture of a happy memory they have, or take a photo of a place they love to visit. They are then asked to bring their creations to the groups and share it with the others there, talking them through what it represents and means to them.
As well as supporting its patients, Phyllis Tuckwell will also offer a series of weekly sessions for patients’ carers, giving them information about the support that is available for carers in Surrey and Hampshire, and offering them relaxation, meditation, Tai Chi and table-top gardening sessions to help them manage their own emotional health and wellbeing.
In addition to these online sessions, Phyllis Tuckwell’s Living Well staff have also put together Resource Packs, which they are delivering to patients at homes. “Because of Coronavirus restrictions, our patients can’t come to Day Hospice sessions as they used to,” explains Nick, “so we’re taking Day Hospice to them!” The packs include a mug with sachets of tea and coffee, biscuits, complementary therapy creams and oils, and leaflets which are specific to the individual patient. “If someone is feeling anxious or worried, we will put in a relaxation leaflet, for example,” says Nick. “When we drop the packs off, we can see our patients too, so we can assess how they are in person and not just over the phone. We really hope that these virtual sessions and resource packs bring our patients, carers and staff together, and help our patients and carers to feel supported.”
To find out more about Phyllis Tuckwell’s Living Well sessions and the care they offers, visit www.pth.org.uk/living-well-service.