It was by chance that Glyn became a social worker at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, but it’s a role she loves and wouldn’t change for the world. This is Glyn’s story.
After more than 20 years as a local authority social worker in the northeast of England, Glyn and her husband decided to up sticks from Hartlepool and make a new home down south – and she hasn’t looked back.
“I ended up as a social worker for the hospice by fluke really,” she said. “Quite a way into my journey as a practitioner, I felt really drawn towards palliative and end of life care.
“It’s social work like no other. It’s such a wonderful way of working and an honour to work here. I’ve always felt that social work is an honourable job because you enter people’s lives when they’re in crisis.”
A listening ear
From dealing with financial issues and benefits for patients to advanced care planning, no two days are the same for Glyn. “Every single day is different,” she said. “It’s simply the best job in the world.”
“There’s something about being able to sit and talk openly – and to help people talk openly – to prepare for death and after death for those who are left behind, including those who have children. You see the best and the worst of everything in my job.”
Having lost her father to cancer, Glyn believes her own life experiences have helped set her up for the role she does today. “Even though the experience is different, you understand that numbness and ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ look people can have when they’re in shock.”
Glyn helps to make memory boxes for the families of patients and has now started to create sentimental cards called ‘lipstick kisses’. She explained: “We cut pieces of card that patients can put kisses on using lipstick and write a little message. We laminate them and give them back.
“They seem like little things, but they’re actually quite big for those left behind.”
But caring for our community is just one of Glyn’s strengths. She’s also a talented singer, joining a number of the Hospice team in a virtual singalong every Friday afternoon. “So far, we’ve massacred Reach by Steps, but we didn’t do too badly with Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive,” she laughed.
“It’s a little like the current Thursday clap for Heroes – we sing to raise our spirits and to say well done for everything everyone has been doing that week. At the moment we’re not able to support each other with a hug, so it’s a sing song instead.”
Adapting our care
The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has, and is continuing, to change the way Glyn and colleagues at the Hospice work. While day care has been temporarily halted, Glyn’s counselling team is ringing patients to offer support. “We’re listening and reassuring them,” she said.
“We are still caring for patients and their families. It isn’t the way we would normally do it, but we are still a 24/7 service.”
For the last few weeks, Glyn has been putting together comfort boxes of basic food and toiletry supplies (with a couple of goodies thrown in) and delivering them to patients in the community. “It may be a small thing, but it’s a massive thing for somebody who’s undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy and it’s not safe for them to go out,” she said.
“Our ethos is to help people to keep living until they die. It’s to help people have a good death – and we’re still trying to do that as much as we humanly can.”
And she believes this is thanks to the people she works with. “I am so amazed and in awe of them every day.
“They are so human and holistic – our doctors, nurses, volunteers, housekeepers and our patients. I get as much from our patients as they get from our services. I’m just fascinated at how people can be so stoic during times of hardship.”
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