Visiting Keech Children's Hospice

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25th April 2016

Getting involved with a local charity

With so many worthwhile charities looking for sponsorship, it is difficult to know where to start when choosing a charity to get involved with. However, this one really caught our eye. This is not only because it is a local charity, making it feel more personable for us and enabling us to get more involved, but also because it is the only hospice with a dedicated children’s service for the communities of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes.

 

The charity

No one should have to experience losing a child or young person, but Keech Hospice Care is there for families who are going through this type of crisis or require specialist support. The teams of nurses, doctors, therapists and social workers support families who have a child or young person with a life-limiting condition. Most of us view a hospice as a final stage of a person’s journey, but many of these children have conditions that are slowly getting worse, requiring 24-hour care. This centre not only cares for the child, but also supports the whole family.

The charity takes a holistic approach to its services. It has a children’s community team that travel to the family home, school or hospital to help manage symptoms, administer medication and provide care at the end of life as well as practical and emotional support for the whole family.  The in-patient unit has five children’s beds with accommodation for families who wish to stay. There is no restriction on friends and family visiting the child, at any time. At day support they run specialist play and educational activities including memory work.  They also run special groups for children going through similar conditions as well as parent support groups. The charity has invested in a hydrotherapy pool to cater for the needs of people with disabilities of all ages. With equipment to help children into the pool and even a ramp so they can take a bed into the water, the Pool Site Manager has managed to get every person into the pool who has wanted to go – something he is understandably proud of! Finally, they also provide 24/7 telephone support and advice where parents can reach specialists nurses in palliative care.

As part of their supportive care, they provide:

  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Complementary therapy
  • Sibling support
  • Social work
  • Bereavement care

Whilst the centre is extremely well equipped, there is a large cost associated with running and maintaining all of this and every year this charity has to find 70% of its money through fund raising which means they need all the support they can get.

 

Centre visit

When offered the opportunity to visit to the centre, we jumped at the chance to see first hand the charity and its work. Sovereign’s Service Desk Manager, Ryan (who initially recommended that we get involved with Keech) and our CEO, Richard joined me on this visit.

Whilst I was very keen to visit the charity, I knew it could be a difficult one. To maintain a smile with dry eyes whilst seeing the centre, some of the patients and hearing about what they do was going to be quite challenging, but we wanted to see first hand what we were supporting, build relationships with the people we would be working with, understand exactly how we can best add value .

We were taken on a tour of the centre, making sure we did not impose on residents. Throughout the tour, we heard about the types of experiences families could expect whilst staying with Keech – from being able to stay with their child in homely surroundings, making choices about their care, being able to have friends as well as family to visit the children, to the child’s room being set up/decorated to meet their personal preferences. For the older children the charity has set up social groups such as ‘Girls Aloud’ nights where groups of girls can watch a film and enjoy a take away together (with the comfort of support from medical staff in the room next to them should they need it) – anything to help create normality.

Whilst it is undoubtedly sad to see such sick children, I have to say Keech is phenomenal. With the beautifully decorated rooms, brightly coloured walls and furniture and the natural light flooding in, you briefly forget that you are in a hospice  This is more than the equipment and a quality facility, this is about the people that work here, the details they consider and the level of support they provide. As far as they are concerned, the primary goal is to make life as easy and as normal as possible for the family, so they can enjoy being a family.

The rooms have been decorated to minimise the cables/medical equipment on show so that the rooms feel more homely.  Each room has a great countryside or garden view and the centre has rooms/mini-flats to enable the rest of the family to live together as well as play rooms for the children admitted that look no different to any other nursery school.

Having now visited the facility and heard some of the lovely stories, I couldn’t stress enough about the amazing things everyone at the centre does, day in, day out, to make those last days, great memories. Activities that most parents will take for granted, but parents of children with life-limiting conditions will miss are accomplished at Keech such as a child’s first finger painting to go on the fridge and plaster casts of hands and feet. These are things that many parents will not even be thinking of whilst they are at the centre, but will provide special memories later on.

 

Lexi’s Fun Day – finishing the children’s play area

Now in its 5th year, Sovereign is sponsoring this year’s ‘Lexi’s Fun Day’ on Saturday 16th July. This event was started and is being run by one of Keech’s Trustees who unfortunately had to experience the hospice’s service and now runs this charity event every year in memory of his daughter to help make sure other parents get to experience the support he and his wife were given.

This year, the event is specifically raising money for the children’s services to finish their garden area. Each of the children’s rooms looks out onto this area and this outdoor space is in need of play equipment that is adapted for children with disabilities. The charity would like to have an outdoor sensory area that all children can enjoy, whatever their condition.

The event is a family fun day and includes a football tournament (for adults and kids), BBQ, bouncy castles, stalls for face painting and cupcakes, not forgetting a purple disco and a photography booth with much more still to come.

This all-day event starts at 09:00 for the football and 11:00 for the Fun Day and will be held at:

Ashlyn’s School

Chesham Road

Berkhamsted

Hertfordshire

HP4 3AH

If you live locally, please come and support this fantastic event. See here for more about the event.

See here to read more about the charity.

Hope to see you there!

Louise

Louise Barker, Head of Marketing & Communications at Sovereign.

If you would like to find out more about Sovereign please get in touch.

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