The charity, which supports patients with a terminal illness and those who are close to them, was founded in 1980. It began as a service which saw patients at home, and the Hospice in the Home service remains an integral part of the hospice to this day. During the 1990s support for its work grew, enabling the charity to house the Hospice Day Service and In-Patient Ward in Pembury.
Now it has five services to ensure that the individual needs of every patient and family across West Kent and northern East Sussex are met.
After the addition of its Counselling and Support Service, its latest provision is Cottage Hospice, which opened last month in Five Ashes, near Mayfield. This presents a new way of caring for patients, with family caregivers looking after their loved ones with the support of volunteers and nursing staff.
Holly Cowan, Head of the Cottage Hospice, said: “We know that the majority of people wish to die in the comfort of their own home.
“Sadly, the reality is that many die in hospital because of the challenges of caring for someone at home in the final weeks to days of life, and the lack of services providing 24/7 support.
“Cottage Hospice is the first of its kind in the UK to offer a ‘home plus’ environment which empowers family caregivers to continue to care for their loved one at the end of life.
“It’s a purpose-built home from home, offering all of those comforts with more support day and night. Our specially trained volunteers are on hand, and there is always a registered nurse or Hospice paramedic on site.
“It will help us meet the wishes of more people, keep families together and meet more unmet need in the local community.”
Anne and Bill came to the Cottage Hospice after the couple found they were struggling to cope with Bill’s needs at home. Bill had become very weak and was growing closer to the end of his life.
Anne said: “Bill had wanted to die at home and to avoid going to hospital, and I supported that, but we were struggling.
“Once we heard about Cottage Hospice, we knew it was for the best. As soon as Bill arrived there he was settled and comfortable in a bed, it was like a great weight had lifted from me.
“The facilities are just wonderful and I was so impressed with the team. If anyone needs Cottage Hospice, I would tell them not to hesitate.
“Welcome it with open arms. You won’t find a better place to care for your loved one and to be helped in caring for them at the end of life.”
Tim and Gill Balsdon, whose son Simon was cared for by the Hospice last year, said: “As a parent, you think that no one will ever look after your children like you do. But coming to the ward at the Hospice, we’ve seen that they do.”
More than 1,700 patients, or those who are res-ponsible for their care, turned to the Hospice for support during 2019. For many local families it offers a welcome break from the challenges of living with a terminal illness, alongside the vital care it provides.
The Hospice is celebrating its 40th birthday by bringing its supporters together with new events and fundraising activities, including a Gala Dinner at Tonbridge School on June 27.
Kate Bourne, the Hospice’s Head of Fundraising, said: “The commitment and generosity of our supporters in helping us reach over £7million every year is just wonderful. We are so glad to be seeing supporters take on new challenges in 2020 to help us mark 40 years of care. It is so important that we continue to fundraise and ensure that the Hospice is there for generations to come.”
To find out how to get involved in fundraising activities, from running and cycling to activities at work, visit hospiceintheweald.org.uk