Category Archives: Life in a Hospice

Does NetGalley Work?

We all want reviews – lots of them and good ones. Some of us write in popular genres, have long email lists and no problem getting reviews in their many tens or more. The rest of us struggle – we ask our friends, our dentist and anyone we can think of until they look a bit bored.

That’s why I want to tell you about my experiences on NetGalley. I decided, as a micro-publisher, to place one of my books on it earlier this year as it has serious reviewers – librarians, journalists, academics and others who love to read – and, from my experience, they write thoughtful reviews.

I write books that don’t fit easily in any genre – based on confidential interviews, they enable people to talk about their lives in their own words and from the heart. The one I placed with NetGalley through BooksGoSocial, Life in a Hospice, is about nurses and others working in end-of-life care. And what happened? In one month, I received 12 reviews, of which 10 were 5 star.

But best of all, they were perceptive – not dashed off to meet a need, but aiming to communicate what the book is about and what it did for them. Here are just a few excerpts, to give you a ‘feel’:

“A brave book – not afraid to confront both the sadness and opportunity that comes from working with people at the end of their lives.”

“As the child of two elderly parents, this is a subject I think of almost daily: this book will make it a LOT EASIER to deal with.”

“As a hospice volunteer, I know well the beauty that can occur at the end of life…beautifully written and thoughtful…”

“It makes you realize that the troubles in your own life are not as important as those dealing with their own mortality…You take an inventory of your own life.”

“I was moved and overwhelmed by the care, compassion and honesty portrayed…This amazing book truly demonstrates the wondrous gift of a good death.”

BGS offers a placement with NetGalley at a bargain price. Why not have a go?

Find out more:
On Amazon |  At the Apple iBooksetc |  

This was originally published on the BooksGoSocial website (https://booksgosocial.com/2018/05/09/does-netgalley-work/)

Life in a Hospice – Hey, you!

Hey you – yes you! I see you rushing off. You see the word ‘hospice’ and you think death, gloomy, morbid – not for me. You search for a good crime novel instead. No death there, of course.

But Life in a Hospice is anything but gloomy. It is a book of stories, told from the heart. And from all sorts of viewpoints. Perhaps the most important word is “life”.

You want a story with a bit of love? There’s more love in a hospice than anywhere in the world. You have an urge to be moved? Yes, of course, when talking about the end of life, that goes without question.

You want to see the complexity of human relationships? For sure, that is there in abundance. Some humour? You won’t be disappointed. You may be surprised.

Life in a hospice shows what it is like to work in a hospice and, by extension, what it is like to be a hospice patient or visiting relative. It is told in their own words by nurses, assistants, chaplains, doctors, managers and even a very thoughtful hospice cook.

They tell of the withdrawn woman who blossomed under the care of the day centre. There is the man who asked to die under a tree – and they arranged it. There are the two young daughters who asked for their father to be buried with some cigarettes and a can of lager. Throughout, there is the enormous sense of ‘privilege’ to be working in a hospice.

Yes, it is about death and dying, but as you’ve never seen it before. Hospices are teeming with life – with love, laughter, arguments and tears. To quote a cliché, “all life is there”.

And if, perchance, you are wondering where you should go when your last days or near – or, indeed, are helping a relative or friend to find such a place – you will be enormously reassured.

Reviews? You can bet they were excellent.

Now maybe that was worth staying for.

Amazon: http://myBook.to/Hospice

Other e-books: https://www.books2read.com/u/bpWk0z

 

Life in a Hospice: one five star review after another

 

Life in a Hospice was initially published in 2007 with some good reviews and an endorsement from the British Medical Association. But despite its continuing relevance to people everywhere, it fell into a fallow period, with few sales and certainly no more reviews.

Imagine my pleasure, then, when I find that the relaunched version (a year ago, spring 2017) is selling well and getting one excellent review after another.

Some of these come from people who know about hospice care already:

“As a Palliative Care physician working in the hospice setting, this book was a great help to me in many ways. It helped me really understand and relate to the many roles and perspectives within the hospice, from the chef to the nursing staff in an open honest way. It helped me see other coping mechanisms and struggles and truly re-inspires me as to the good work being done.” Matt (on Amazon.co.uk)

“As a hospice volunteer, I well know the beauty that can occur at the end of life. This book is a beautifully written and thoughtful explanation of much of what occurs in a hospice.”  Janice B. (on NetGalley)

Some come from people whose own personal lives are touched by its contents:

“What a beautiful but complicated book. As the child of two elderly parents, this is a subject I think of almost daily: this book is going to make it a LOT EASIER to deal with. The advice is smart and just and should be easily understood by any level of reader. A great sourcebook for people who are or may be dealing with this subject.”  Janet C. (on NetGalley)

And some could see it might be a help in the long run

“This is an absolutely wonderful book. It’s a must-read for everyone, especially those who are not yet aware of the fact that death is an inevitable part of life. The way people in hospice care are dealing with this is, as strange as it sounds, wonderful and it may come as a surprise that it is not all darkness and gloom.” An avid reader (on Amazon.co.uk)

It does a writer’s heart good to see such a welcome for her hard work and commitment.

Revisiting Books Written Some Years Ago

Have you ever gone back to read books you wrote some years ago?  Most writers, I suspect, don’t. We write, we publish and we move on.

Some writers say that when they do go back, it makes them uncomfortable to see their earlier, less formed self.  They have learned so much in the meantime.

Indeed, some remove their own books from sale, lest readers think this is the best they can do.

Looking back with pleasure

But there is another response. Some of us return to old books to find ourselves surprised at how good they were. We have also learned much in the meantime, yet our earlier self was unexpectedly thoughtful. It is wonderful to discover.

Last year, I returned to two books I had written many years ago, which were trade-published. I was so impressed with both that I re-launched both for new readers, after getting my rights back (much easier than you think).

Ten years ago

cover of Life in a Hospice

The new self-published edition

Ten years ago, I wrote a book offering the thoughts of hospice staff about working in end-of-life care, Life in a Hospice. It had been published by a highly respectable medical publisher and had a Foreword by Tony Benn, a well loved MP. Indeed, it was Highly Commended by the British Medical Association in 2008.

But I was irritated by the lack of publicity by the publisher (taken over by a major conglomerate) and wondered how relevant it would feel today. Yes, what a delight. I was very touched by the stories and it felt fresh as a daisy!  That prompted me to take back the rights and re-publish it as both a paperback and e-book, but added a new cover.

RESULT: I must have been right, because after selling one or two books a year, it has sold nearly three hundred copies since March 2017. That’s not Harry Potter, but it is good for a book on hospice care.

Twenty-five years ago

cover of Wise before their time

Once topical, now of historical value

That experience prompted me to go back to a book I had published in 1992 setting out the personal stories of people with HIV/AIDS when it was a life-threatening disease, Wise Before their Time. It was long out of print, although there were second hand copies available on the net. I approached the task of reading it with some trepidation, as I could well have been embarrassed.

On the contrary, I found myself incredibly moved by my own book, which I had not read for twenty-five years.

Although the stories have no current relevance, as people diagnosed with HIV can now anticipate a normal life span, they had a historical significance.

Again, I took the rights back and republished it as both a paperback and e-book, again with a new cover.

RESULT: It is selling less dramatically, but selling nonetheless. And it has garnered nothing but five star reviews, which is pleasing.

Conclusions

I am not a young woman, so these books – old as they are – were not written in the full flush of youth. Perhaps if I were able to go back to writings from my twenties or thirties, I would well be embarrassed.

But for those of you who have traditional publications long out of print and wonder whether to just forget about them – think again.

Take them out and have a look. You might be pleasantly surprised. And if you are a member of ALLi, you know that self-publishing is easy.  The next step is obvious.

 

This post was first published by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)  See https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-back-catalogue-hybrid-authors-advice/

Life in a Hospice: The Back Story

A friend asked me recently why I wrote Life in a Hospice, which explores the joys and challenges of working in a hospice from the viewpoint of nurses, doctors, managers and others in their own words.

The answer is simple. Back in the early 1990s, I had a close friend who died from AIDS, who was himself an AIDS nurse. This had made me very interested in the complex lives of people facing death, as well as those looking after them. After he died, a chaplain friend of his took me to a hospice, as he was doing an errand (but I suspected he wanted me to see it) and I was immediately drawn to the place.

Hospices tend to be places of great tranquillity and calm and I felt yes, I want to be part of a place like this. I applied to work as a volunteer in a local hospice and ended up doing so for four years. It was very satisfying – albeit sometimes demanding – work. But I was there only one afternoon a week. I was intrigued by all the regular staff whose day-to-day job was turning up to work with people who were dying.

As I was a writer, I felt this would be a good topic for a book. My books were all based on in-depth interviews, using the actual words of the people interviewed to tell readers what it ‘felt like’ to be them. I set about looking for two hospices who would agree to be part of this research and found two without much difficulty.

I interviewed roughly fifteen people in each hospice, some of whom volunteered and others were selected by the director. There were nurses and healthcare assistants, doctors, chaplains, various managers and even a very reflective chef. Everyone was more than happy to talk, especially as I promised anonymity (and sometimes changed minor details in the book to avoid identification).

Tony Benn, who was interested in hospice care, agreed to write a Foreword – and the rest is history.

The book was initially published in 2007 and was ‘Highly Commended’ by the British Medical Association. In 2017, I took back the rights and re-published it as both a paperback and e-book at a much reduced price.

You can read more about this book on my website www.annrichardson.co.uk and see reviews on Amazon at http://myBook.to/Hospice.  It is also available on other electronic readers (see https://www.books2read.com/u/bpWk0z)

Life in a Hospice – a surprise success

Life in a Hospice, my book which goes behind the scenes in two hospices to show readers how it feels to provide end-of-life care, was first published in 2007.  I re-launched it last March.  This is because the publishers were charging much too much for it and giving it no publicity – with the not surprising result that no one was buying it.  It was selling one or two copies a year.

I thought a few people might want to read it and decided to give it a new cover and a revised introduction and make it available to potential readers at a reasonable price.  I thought 50 or 60 people, at a completely rough guess, might be interested.  But I was so wrong.

No, I have been selling one or so copies a day on Amazon – indeed, well over 200 copies since its relaunch.  Mostly e-books, but some paperbacks as well.  This is not big numbers compared to Harry Potter or a few other things I could name, but it is surprisingly successful. A friend who is a writer said he wished he could see such sales.

Who is reading it?  I don’t actually know.  I would imagine many will be current hospice workers, who like to hear about others doing similar work. Or those who are interested in pursuing hospice care as a career (it’s a very good introduction to this, because it talks about not only what workers do but also how such work affects their lives). Some people who are considering hospice care for someone in their family may be reading it, too.

I personally think it makes inspirational reading, showing humanity at its best. Perhaps some readers are looking for that.

I am now making it available as an e-book in other outlets besides Amazon, such as Apple ibooks, Kobo and Barnes and Noble.

Have a look.  It might interest you, too: http://myBook.to/Hospice

 

Talking about how I came to write and re-launch Life in a Hospice: AlzAuthors website

ann-richardson-canva.png

Some years ago, I was taken to a hospice by a friend, who happened to be doing an errand. I immediately felt that this was the kind of tranquil place where I wanted to spend time. Soon after, I began to volunteer at a local hospice every Saturday afternoon. I did so for four years.

This experience had a strong impact on me, lasting even to the present day. Death – as with birth – is a very special time and I felt privileged to help people, even in small ways, in their last days.

As I was a writer, I thought the views and experiences of hospice staff would make a fascinating book. I had developed a technique, based on the kind of research I did for a living, of creating books formed around the direct views of people acquired by long and intimate interviews. Like a television documentary, it allows people to talk directly to the reader.

I undertook 31 interviews in two hospices with a whole range of staff – nurses, doctors, chaplains, managers and even a very reflective cook. They talked about the many ways in which they tried to make patients’ last days peaceful and meaningful, about the impact of such work on their own lives and, most importantly, about what they gained personally from such work. Like myself, they often used the word ‘privileged’ for being with people at the end of their lives.

The resulting book, Life in a Hospice, was, in my humble view, the best I had ever written – and I anticipated that many people would be keen to read it. It was very well reviewed, there was an article in the Times newspaper about it and it was even Highly Commended by the British Medical Association, despite not being a ‘medical’ book at all. All this was hugely pleasing.

But, alas, the breadth of the readership was very disappointing. The book was bought by many hospices and others working in end of life care, but it never took off with the general public. I quickly realized there were two reasons. First, most people do not have my fascination with end-of-life care and, indeed, avoid thinking about anything to do with death. And, second, the book was much too expensive, the price having been set by its medical publisher

I couldn’t do anything to overcome the first problem, but I took back the rights to the book and re-launched it as a very inexpensive e-book ($3.75), so that anyone who wants to read it will not be deterred by the price. It is again receiving some good reviews on Amazon. I must admit I have never heard anyone say they were not deeply moved by it. A paperback version is in the works and will be published soon.

My one caveat for this website is that the hospices in my book did not cater for people with Alzheimer’s. I can only say that the attention to the very individual needs of patients would go far when it comes to people with dementia of any kind.

This was originally published on the Alzheimers Authors website:  https://alzauthors.com/2017/06/14/welcome-ann-richardson-author-of-life-in-a-hospice/

 

Kind Cooking: the art of preparing food for sick people

Are you one of the many people who are looking after someone who is very ill? Perhaps a spouse, sibling, parent or friend? As you well know, it is a highly tiring and difficult task, however much it is undertaken with love.

You may be overloaded with advice, but I’d like to add a few thoughts about food.

Ill People Don’t Feel Like Eating

People who are ill rarely want to eat. Nothing looks good or tastes good and they just pick at whatever you put in front of them. And then they feel tired, have no energy and little chance to enjoy the days, months or, perhaps, years they have remaining

In the course of writing a book about end-of-life care, I interviewed a hospice cook who was devoted to encouraging ill people to eat. If they eat even a little, he said, they will have a much better quality of life.

Instead of sleeping all the time, he noted, they will be able to talk to family and friends – and, when needed, say their goodbyes. There may be unresolved issues and talking is important for laying these to rest. This is altogether better for the ill person and better for those looking after him or her.

Cooking from the Ill Person’s Point of View

The cook, with long experience, had many pointers to suggest. Give the ill person some choice wherever possible, as they will have so few areas in which they can exercise any sense of control.

Don’t overwhelm them with too much food; use small plates and small bowls so that what is offered looks an amount they could cope with. One small piece of meat, one small potato, something green or a small carrot for colour and it can look much more inviting. Herbs can add valuable taste for jaundiced appetites and can offset the effects of medication.

If possible, keep the preparation at a distance, as the smell of cooking can be very off-putting. See if you could borrow a neighbour’s kitchen if you want to cook something that takes time or has a powerful smell. People are often very eager to help.

Eating as a Social Occasion

Finally, the cook stressed the importance of making eating a social occasion. Talking and even laughing over food provides a welcome sense of life and normality. Sit down together and discuss the news of the day or something else of interest. Sometimes, a small amount of alcohol would not go amiss, depending on the drugs the person is on.

He was also keen to get people out of bed wherever possible. A table nearby, even with a tablecloth, can look much more inviting than the tiresome sick bed.

It’s Not Easy

Cooking for people who are very sick is not easy at the best of times. But these ideas provide some ways to make it more palatable for the patient and more satisfying for the cook.

This post was originally published by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/kind-cooking-the-art-of-preparing-food-for-sick-people/) and should not be re-blogged

How Hospice Care Can Help Meet a Patient’s End of Life Wishes

Have you ever spent time with someone in their last days? Was it intimate, peaceful and special – or was it full of intrusive hospital equipment, harried nurses, physical pain and no chance to talk?

We are all affected when someone we love is close to death. I am sure we all hope for a time of tranquility and the chance to say a meaningful goodbye. And, it goes without saying, a time that is pain-free. The concept of a “good death” is not an empty one. The question is how to achieve it. Can hospice care help?

Life in Hospice Care

It was my privilege some years ago to interview a number of nurses, doctors and other staff working in two hospices in England. From what they told me, outside of the family home, I could not imagine a better place for one’s last days. Everyone seemed full of compassion, but also thoughtfulness about the needs of the people there, both those who were dying and their relatives and friends.

 Attention to Needs

It is difficult to do justice in a few words to the breadth of attentiveness in a hospice. As described in much more detail on my website, it is not the big things that one remembers, but the little touches that make all the difference.

In my book, I introduce different patients, like the woman who didn’t want a bath at the normal time and was allowed to bathe at the time of her choosing. Or the family member who needed a sandwich to enable her to stay at the bedside and how it was provided. Or the patient who simply needed a cuddle.

I met a hospice cook who spent considerable time thinking about how to encourage people to eat. He said if they ate, they would be alert enough to say goodbye to their friends and family. He studied the impact of drugs on the taste of food and learned how to counteract this.

A choice of food was always offered. He encouraged people to get out of bed to eat, if at all possible, so they could have a sense of occasion with their friends or family.

Each person – whether a nursing assistant or chaplain or doctor – looked out for patients’ needs in all sorts of ways. This might be the need to talk about the past or simply to sit in silence with someone holding their hand.

Sometimes, some action was called for, such as an elderly woman who wanted to write to her grandchild, but needed a slight reminder to do so sooner rather than later. The stories go on and on.

Hospice Care Offers a Choice in Death

No one chooses to die, of course, but hospices do what they can to allow people to die in the way they want. Perhaps most memorable for me was the man who asked to die under a tree and was duly taken outside to do so when his time had come.

Some people wanted music and others wanted family with them. Some appeared to want to be alone. A Muslim man asked that his bed be turned so that his head was facing east. Every effort was made to respond to these wishes.

We don’t like thinking about these things, but we all know we should. Many people want to die at home, but end up in a busy hospital. There is a need to think about what you – or your family – would want, so it can be planned for.

 

This was originally published by Sixtyandme (see http://sixtyandme.com/how-hospice-care-can-help-meet-a-patients-end-of-life-wishes/) and should not be re-blogged