As the Kingsbridge article in last month’s Hospice Herald highlighted, in addition to covering busy urban areas such as central Plymouth, St Luke’s care reaches out across rural areas, including the picturesque South Hams.

While picture-postcard pretty, these more isolated places can leave those residents approaching end of life struggling to access the health and social care they need and short on choice when it comes to their preferred place of receiving the specialist help that’s vital at such a difficult time.

Most people with a life limiting progressive illness want to be looked after in the comfort of their own home, close to loved ones. Cathryn Goodchild is a nurse in St Luke’s at home team for the South Hams and covers Modbury through to Chillington, including Kingsbridge, Salcombe and part of South Brent.

Cathryn said: “I’m very much part of team working alongside our physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and my role includes helping to identify patients’ problems, providing symptom control and working with patients and their families to consider options for future care.

“One of the problems is that due to the rural location we can’t automatically access carers through agencies and know that they can visit three or four times a day to meet the needs of our patients and support their carers and families. We’ve had to find alternatives to the ‘traditional’ package of care.”

This challenge has called for a creative and practical approach from St Luke’s to help ensure people in rural areas benefit from high-quality compassionate care in their preferred place. This can include help with washing and dressing, and sometimes overnight care, too. The key is our flourishing partnership with South Hams Hospital, district nurses and local GP surgeries.

Yvonne Bastin, Livewell Southwest Community Sister at South Hams Hospital, said: “Our rural location does present difficulties, and in the summer when there’s a big influx of visitors it impacts on our roads, so it takes much longer to reach patients. The heavy snow earlier this year was also a significant challenge for us.

“But Cathryn and the team are amazing. And it’s not just their practical support – Cathryn gives us advice on medication and getting care. We work well together on completing forms and she’s always there to help, speaking with our doctors, too. If she doesn’t know something, she’ll always find someone who does, whether that’s a St Luke’s doctor or another member of their team.

“Our patients want to be at home, and they know it’s the last place they’ll be. They want to be with their family, and if we can get them the support they need there – well, that’s the whole purpose of our care.”

It’s always so encouraging when we hear about the challenges our supporters are taking on for St Luke’s, but to hear about an intrepid individual taking on six to raise £40,000? That’s inspiring – and then some!

Busy mum Claire Lemasurier, who lives in Tavistock, generously gives her time to help organise the fundraising skydives for our charity. Now she’s going to greater lengths to raise more funds for our care by taking on six tough expeditions in a year.

To fit in the intensive training needed to tackle her mammoth year of trekking from next April – first in Machu Picchu, followed by Mount Elbrus, Mount Everest base camp, Kilimanjaro and cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia, capped off with the once-in-a-lifetime St Luke’s trek to Malawi in 2020 – Claire dons a 15kg backpack three times a week when she walks to pick her children, aged 10 and 11, from school. She also regularly puts in training at Peak Fitness in Tavistock.

“It’s hard work juggling working, training, volunteering and the kids,” said Claire, who grew up walking on Dartmoor. “But it will be worth it if I can raise all the money. Seeing my kids’ faces when I told them my plan – they were so inspired!”

You can follow Claire’s journey and send her your messages of encouragement at This Girl Can Trek on Facebook and Instagram, and if you – or anyone you know – are interested in taking part in our exciting Malawi 2020 Challenge, check out our webpage.

Go, Claire! And thank you for doing something so amazing for St Luke’s.

Our hearts have been warmed by two local children who’ve shown that as well as being enthusiastic and enterprising, they’re very caring as well.

Gabriel Richardson, who attends St George’s Church of England Primary Academy, got on his bike to take part in Tour de Moor with his dad, Tony, raising nearly £300 for St Luke’s. Aware of the care we give, and of the privilege of being fit and healthy themselves, they harnessed their pedal power in our annual cycling challenge on Dartmoor.

“We’ve often cheered from the sidelines at charity races, but this was an opportunity to get stuck into a challenge together, something a little bit tough, to help people needing St Luke’s specialist care,” said Tony.

“I thought we would cycle in ‘dual formation’ side by side, but Gabe was determined to do the route under his own steam. In the early stages he declared it was the best day of his life. That later changed to “Never again!”, but at bedtime that day – when I reminded him how the hard work he’d put in would help poorly people – he smiled and I just knew he would be happy to do it all over again.

“Gabe has just turned eight and I couldn’t be more proud of him, as is everyone else who supported him. It blew us away that his initial target of raising £100 was met within just 12 hours and, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, this grew to nearly £300. It’s great, too, that the Just Giving page we set up is there for him to look back on as a lovely reminder of what he achieved to help other people.”

Meanwhile, big-hearted Madeleine Newstead got together with her friends at Woodlands School in Ivybridge, to sell cakes, jewellery, paperweights and other items they’d made themselves to raise money for our charity by having a stall at the school. Together, the young entrepreneurs made over £170!

While Maddy is the granddaughter of St Luke’s trustee Steve Newstead, she was not aware of his role with our charity at the time she decided to roll up her sleeves to get cooking and crafting to help us.

Steve said: “Maddy did this off her own bat and she and her friends did a great job. I was delighted to hear that it was all in aid of St Luke’s, and encouraged at their awareness of what our charity is about. It just goes to show, you’re never too young to make a difference.”

The hills and woods of Dartmoor were alive with mud, sweat and gears today, Sunday 30 September, as hundreds of people donned their yellow tee-shirts and got on their bikes in support of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.

Once again, the charity’s annual Tour de Moor cycling challenge was a sellout, with adrenalin-seekers taking on the tough 23km route or the gruelling 52km route, putting their skills to the ultimate test by tackling the hills up to Princetown.

Young families took part in their droves, too, following the more gentle 11km route along Drake’s Trail, enjoying ‘selfie’ stops, a hot chocolate and a quiz along the way.
Sponsored by Print Copy Scan, a local supplier of printers and copiers, Tour de Moor provides for every level of cycling ability while raising vital funds that help St Luke’s extend its specialist end of life care to more people who desperately need it at home, in hospital and at the specialist unit at Turnchapel.

View the gallery

Braving the 52km route was a father taking on the toughest challenge in memory of his beloved son. It was a poignant day for Chris Weir, 69, of Plympton, participating to support St Luke’s following their care for son Mark, who sadly passed away in January this year aged just 36, having been admitted to the specialist unit at Turnchapel over Christmas, following time in hospital.
At Turnchapel, Mark was able to spend precious time with visiting family, including his children, who received support through St Luke’s Patches pre-bereavement programme for youngsters facing the loss of a parent.

Clive said: “Mark was always up for a challenge. He was so brave and I’m so proud of him. St Luke’s gave such great care, which helped him to die peacefully but also to live until he died. Events like Tour de Moor are important because the more people who know about St Luke’s, the greater their impact.”

And riding the 23km route in memory of step-father Steve Mills – who passed way at the specialist unit three years ago – was Daniel White, who lives in Plymstock.

Daniel said: “’Daddy Steve’ as we knew him was an amazing guy. I’ll always remember how friendly everyone was when we visited him and the beautiful gardens where we could just sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings together. My mum was able to stay at St Luke’s with Steve and the staff were so reassuring and good at explaining things.”

Also taking part in the 23km were couple Dave and Jay Trestain from Padstow, Cornwall, cheered on by young daughter, Dora, and Dave’s mum, Jane. Dave, who is receiving treatment for cancer, was excited to be doing Tour de Moor for the second year and pleased the timing of the event fitted in after recent surgery.

Jay said: “It was so brilliant doing Tour de Moor together last year that we’ve both looked forward to it – the anticipation has helped us a lot. There’s such a great party atmosphere with loads of other families.”

With Tour de Moor raising almost £100,000 last year and the event once again completely selling out this time, people of all ages rallied to make it a day to remember.

Among them were five-year-old Jacob Cottam and dad Chris of Plympton, who took on the more gentle 11km route along Drake’s Trail. They heard about the annual event through Jacob’s school, Plymouth College, and were excited to be combining fitness with fundraising for St Luke’s.

Chris said: “First thing this morning, Jacob was so excited he dived on me! It’s such a great thing for us to do together and it really has the feel-good factor. It was great to see everyone enjoying such an electric atmosphere.”

Lewis Gunn, 25, and Ryan Mortlemans are friends who signed up for Tour de Moor for the sheer exhilaration of the challenge and took on the 23km route together. Lewis said: “We both do loads of cycling and this was a great opportunity to take on a more extreme challenge. Parts of it were pretty gruelling but it was all amazing. It’s Plymouth’s answer to the Tour de France!”

All the funds raised from today’s Tour de Moor will help the care St Luke’s gives everywhere from Salcombe to East Cornwall via Tavistock and the moors, supporting families as much as patients.

Claire Luckhurst, Event Fundraiser for St Luke’s said, “What a fantastic day! We’re hugely grateful to everyone who’s braved the course today. It’s an incredible achievement and the money they’ve raised will go direct to our compassionate care for patients and their families when time is running short. Everyone who took part has done us all proud!”

St Luke’s would like to recognise the kindness of the Maristow Estate and Buckland Abbey for providing the use of their land this year, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Devon and Cornwall

4 x 4 Response for their vital support, and the Plume of Feathers pub for help with facilities.

Register your interest for Tour de Moor 2019.

We never cease to be amazed at the wonderful ways our community gets behind us, and we’re sure you’ll agree these supporters deserve a special mention and a big thank you.

And the bride wore…cake!

It’s your wedding day and you’re looking radiant, celebrating together with loved ones. What could possibly make the day more memorable?

For bride Jo, who recently married Tom Thorne at Sturtlebury Barn in Loddiswell, it was something very unusual – and messy!

When the guests voted for which member of the wedding party should receive a cake in the face for St Luke’s, they chose Jo, who – despite looking beautiful in her special dress –  sportingly took it not just on the chin but over her entire face!

Jo said: “Tom and I wanted to do something to help St Luke’s because we have all had loved ones cared for by the amazing team.

“Little did I know I’d be the ‘lucky’ one to get a cake in the face – and I do think Tom took far too much pleasure in splatting me! But it was all for a fantastic cause and gave us some very interesting wedding photos, too!”

Nailing it for St Luke’s

When you’re just hours away from jumping 15,000ft from a plane for charity, it’s usually a nail-biting time. For Bernadette Mullarkey though, damaging her nails was something she definitely wanted to avoid!

Plucky Bernadette, who was bravely taking part in a skydive for St Luke’s in memory of her dad, Rodney, got her nails done to mark the occasion and went all out with St Luke’s colours and logo on her fingertips, as you can see!

She said: “My dad was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer and sadly passed away after a very short battle; it was his wish to die at home surrounded by loved ones. St Luke’s offered us both physical and emotional support and were just incredible, enabling us to keep our promise to our dad.”

“Not only did they make my dad as comfortable as possible and care for him in his final stages of his life, they allowed him to die with dignity. We as a family are so grateful.”

Paula goes up in the world

With Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) getting behind us as their charity of the year, their fundraising has been reaching new heights!

Recently, Housing Officer Paula Williams went above and beyond to bravely venture up on the roof of one of the landmark 43m-high Mount Wise Towers after she was ‘persuaded’ to take on the challenge, raising sponsorship money for St Luke’s in the process.

It’s not every day a Housing Officer finds herself encountering the dizzy heights of being 17 floors up, so how did it come about?

Once a month the roofs of all three towers undergo inspection to ensure they’re in good order. While this is normally carried out by specialists in building safety, Pete Bold from PCH’s Minor Works team invited Paula to don the harness and join in with an inspection as a highly original way to support St Luke’s.

Paula, who used to work in community outreach, still remembers a local man she met while running a supper club for socially isolated older men and how wonderfully St Luke’s cared for him at the end of his life.

She said: “I had a real soft spot for Gilbert and so felt this was something really good I could do to help the charity.”

When she visited Turnchapel for a tour, Paula told us: “I’m no fan of heights so when I came out of the tower’s roof hatch I was shaking. Wearing the safety harness and using ropes, I had to make my way all around the edge.

“I then got the privilege of the most amazing views across the whole of the city, the moors and over to Cornwall – incredible!”

 

St Luke’s care extends to isolated rural areas as well as across Plymouth and large towns, and we’re all too aware that not everyone has equal access to healthcare, particularly when it comes to the specialist care needed when a person is approaching the end of life.

While most people with a terminal illness want to die at home, we know that those living in rural areas suffer less choice with end of life care than their urban counterparts and many simply cannot die at home, due to a lack of care agencies.

As part of our Compassionate Communities initiative – which aims to facilitate communities where everyone recognises we all have a role in supporting each other, particularly during periods of crisis or loss – we are keen to enable choice and compassion in rural as well as urban areas, benefiting both the dying person and their loved ones caring for them at home as it is these ‘informal’ carers who can often feel very isolated and unsure where to turn for help.

Earlier this year, at the Who Cares in Kingsbridge event, we met individuals and voluntary groups from the rural market town who told us that while they’re keen to work together in a supportive network, this could not succeed without a dedicated individual to provide a co-ordinated approach.

They spoke and we listened! And now, following a successful bid to Hospice UK for grant funding, we are set to employ a Community Network Co-ordinator for Kingsbridge. Once appointed, they will work across the patch to help build up the community’s capacity to support people at the end of life and the loved ones caring.

Crucially, the role will focus on development and training of individuals as Compassionate Friends, including producing a toolkit and ‘training’ them to do the ‘little’ things – such as making meals, shopping, providing a listening ear and company – that make a big difference to those going through such challenging times. The Co-ordinator will also train up Compassionate Champions, who can in turn train Compassionate Friends in much the same way that Dementia Champions nurture Dementia Friends.

Central to this new post will be developing and training volunteer end of life compassionate co-ordinators to co-ordinate networks in the area, creating Compassionate Friends and working alongside existing voluntary groups to support carers in a joined-up way, to work with formal care-givers such as nurses and personal assistants (paid carers) to wrap services around the carer and the person they look after.

A key outcome of this project will be healthcare professionals recognising and legitimising informal caring networks. With many individuals and groups to consider, another important outcome will be an ‘asset map’ of the community, a helpful resource that can be accessed online by both the public and professionals.

In addition, the ‘My Supportive Network’ tool produced will allow carers to identify their local supportive network and enable them to tap into voluntary services that can help.

This community project aims to support and train 350 people and make a real difference in Kingsbridge and surrounding areas with a model that can then be tailored to benefit other communities, too.

Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services and Head of Education at St Luke’s, said: “Death, dying and bereavement are inevitable parts of life but they are not primarily medical events. We know that end of life care and the experiences of those who are left behind impacts on them hugely, and we need to develop new ways of working that provide more help and support both while their loved one is alive and after.

“St Luke’s is committed to working with our local communities, such as Kingsbridge, to realise the potential of informal networks and develop a more effective model that promotes compassionate carer support and choice for those at the end of life, so that they can die at home with those they love.”

This summer was extra blooming lovely, thanks to another highly successful Open Gardens season for St Luke’s – the ninth since it became an official part of our charity’s calendar of events.

The annual extravaganza sees wonderful gardens across Devon and Cornwall throw open their gates to welcome members of the public, some green-fingered and others there simply to enjoy the peaceful and enchanting surroundings and perhaps a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a plant sale, too.

As well welcoming back the ‘hardy perennials’ – the gardens whose owners kindly open them for St Luke’s each year – we bedded in some new gardens this summer, and some not usually open to the public, giving an exclusive glimpse of hidden gems.

Over 25 dates throughout the season, 108 gardens welcomed 4,783 visitors in total – each of these representing considerable dedication, hard work and often monetary investment of their owners, as well as help from friends and neighbours to make the day a success.

Thanks to entry fees, raffles, plant sales and donations, Open Gardens raised £48,000 this year – plus £10,000 from our generous sponsor, Portcullis Legals.

The continued blossoming of the scheme means it has now brought in over £330,000 for our patient care since it started.

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser for St Luke’s, is the man who tirelessly co-ordinates the many strands of this big annual event. He said: “There’s a real feel-good factor to Open Gardens. The wonderful thing is that the gardens are located in the areas where we provide our specialist care, so not just in the big towns but some of the little villages, too.

“It’s a lovely combination of gardens with histories that in some cases stretch back hundreds of years – often with amazing specimens – to the pretty smaller gardens that make up the popular village walkabouts.

“What’s fantastic is the way it brings people in those communities together – from residents growing plants in advance to schools making scarecrows and people baking cakes. There are hundreds of volunteers and community groups involved and I want to say a big thank you to them, as well as to Portcullis Legals whose generous sponsorship also makes a big difference.”

Never one to rest on his laurels(!), Wayne is already busy with planning for next year’s Open Gardens, which will be extra special as the scheme celebrates its tenth anniversary.

When asked to reveal some of the treats in store, he said: “We already have 18 dates booked in for garden openings, and much-loved local artist and St Luke’s Patron Brian Pollard will be designing a special anniversary brochure for us, which is really exciting.

“I really look forward to Open Gardens. It’s just a lovely thing to be part of.”

Learn more about Open Gardens 2019

With Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) getting behind us as their charity of the year, their fundraising has been reaching new heights!

Recently, Housing Officer Paula Williams went above and beyond to bravely venture up on the roof of one of the landmark 43m-high Mount Wise Towers after she was ‘persuaded’ to take on the challenge, raising sponsorship money for St Luke’s in the process.

It’s not every day a Housing Officer finds herself encountering the dizzy heights of being 17 floors up, so how did it come about?

Once a month the roofs of all three towers undergo inspection to ensure they’re in good order. While this is normally carried out by specialists in building safety, Pete Bold from PCH’s Minor Works team invited Paula to don the harness and join in with an inspection as a highly original way to support St Luke’s.

Paula, who used to work in community outreach, still remembers a local man she met while running a supper club for socially isolated older men and how wonderfully St Luke’s cared for him at the end of his life.

She said: “I had a real soft spot for Gilbert and so felt this was something really good I could do to help the charity.”

When she visited Turnchapel for a tour, Paula told us: “I’m no fan of heights so when I came out of the tower’s roof hatch I was shaking. Wearing the safety harness and using ropes, I had to make my way all around the edge.

“I then got the privilege of the most amazing views across the whole of the city, the moors and over to Cornwall – incredible!”

Learn more about becoming St Luke’s charity of the year.

Did you know that a staggering 2.23billion people worldwide have a personal Facebook account they use on a regular basis? What might surprise you even more is that predictions indicate that within the next few decades, the social media giant will have more online profiles of deceased people than those living.

Over recent years, St Luke’s social workers – who support patients and families across the community – have witnessed a gradual shift in the way bereaved people are accessing records that capture the treasured memories they have of their loved one.

Where once they reached for the album packed with family photos, increasingly they are going online to social media sites, such as Facebook, to access those precious pictures and recollect happy times with the person they’ve lost.

In her work as a Social Worker for St Luke’s, Danielle Brown supports patients both at home and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel. She’s there to help them emotionally and also in practical ways, and her support extends to their family members, too.

She said: “Part of my role is to give them the time and space to talk about their loved one, including their memories of special times together. When they want to show me photos, often this will now be pictures online, including on social media sites like Facebook.”

As Danielle has observed, while digital platforms can be very positive in helping the bereaved, unfortunately they can have a negative impact, too.

“I worked with one young woman who really enjoyed going back through her late mum’s profile and looking at her photos,” she said. “But I have also seen how distressing it can be for the bereaved person when they see pop-up reminders of birthdays and other occasions, or received friend suggestions. It’s hard for the family left behind because they have no control over their loved one’s online account.”

This raises an important point – have you thought about who will take over your digital legacy? At St Luke’s we encourage open conversations with friends and family about end of life wishes but the online ‘life’ can easily be overlooked.

That’s why we’re heartened to see that Facebook has taken a proactive, compassionate stance on the issue by introducing a Legacy Contact function. It’s actually been around since 2015, but is not widely known about.

So, how does the feature work? Thankfully, it’s straightforward!

You can nominate an individual to have access to your Facebook profile when you die and have your profile ‘memorialised’, removing your profile from automated functions like birthday reminders and friend suggestions.

Your nominated individual will have to contact Facebook before the legacy function can be activated and, importantly, they can’t log on as you and will not have access to your personal messages. However, once the function is activated the individual can post on your behalf to publish funeral arrangements. They can also change the profile picture, respond to friend requests or close down your account.

In addition, when you nominate your legacy contact you can give permission for them to download the data archive containing all the posts, photos and videos from your profile.

If you’d prefer not to have a legacy contact, you can let Facebook know you want your profile deleted upon notification of your death.

To access your legacy contact, simply click settings from a desktop pc, then general, then manage account, where you will find the legacy options.

And finally, remember to have those open and honest conversations with your nominated person to ensure they manage your digital legacy in accordance with your wishes. That way, you’ll not only have peace of mind about your virtual world but make things that little bit easier for those nearest and dearest to you.

Learn more about bereavement support at St Luke’s

Learn more about pre-bereavement support for children

Our fundraising events volunteers are our unsung heroes. There to give a smile and cheer of encouragement when the going gets tough and to make your personal challenge unforgettable.

Raising money to ensure patients and their families get the support they need, when they need it is a real team effort. In fact, an event volunteer plays as much of a role in making this care possible as the people taking part. Without them the event would simply not happen and we are truly grateful for this amazing act of kindness.

Did you know it takes 80 volunteers to put on our Tour de Moor cycling event?

Volunteers are urgently required to help at Tour de Moor on the morning of Sunday 30 September at Yelverton. From marshalling to helping on the water station and registration desk, if you can spare a few hours – we’d love to hear from you.

Drop us a line, events@stlukes-hospice.org.uk, call 01752 492626 or drop us a DM on social media.