Life in a Hospice

Life in a Hospice by Ann RichardsonNone of us likes to think about what our last days will be like. But if we do think about them at all, we want them to be full of peace and tranquillity, with the chance to say proper goodbyes to those we love. Life in a Hospice takes you behind the scenes in end-of-life care, where you will see the enormous efforts of nurses, doctors, chaplains and others – even a thoughtful cook – to provide the calm that we all hope for.

Perhaps you are looking for end-of-life care for someone you love. Perhaps you are wondering if this is the job for you. Or you just feel like being inspired by humanity at its best.

This book will be for you.

FOREWORD by Tony Benn

Available in paperback and e-book

Glenmore Press, 2017
First published by Radcliffe Publishing, 2007

Translated into both Spanish and Portuguese

HIGHLY COMMENDED by the British Medical Association, 2008

“An easy-to-read book, which will surprise many readers with its lightness of touch, humanity and refreshing tone. I would recommend it to anyone who has worries about their own or a relative’s care at the end of life.”

Dr Nansi-Wynne Evans, GP, BMA Book Competition

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Press Coverage

e-hospice  (Karen Murphy, President of Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains (AHPCC)), 2018:

A gem of a book for anyone interested in palliative care and hospice work. There are many myths and preconceptions around what goes on inside the walls, many of them increase people’s anxiety and fear about contemplating death and dying.

A unique approach to this subject by sharing insights from a wide range of people who work in a palliative care setting. Their reflections are incredibly honest and insightful, as contributors share the joys and sorrows of their role. Anyone reading this collection of insights will gain a true picture of how those working in the setting bring a range of practical skills to the task in hand, but also bring themselves whole-heartedly, and often at personal cost….If prospective patients were to read this, they would gain an assurance that those offering care are people of compassion and a deep sense of caring.

Staff and volunteers have reflected on their work with congruence and it is a tribute to Ann that they were prepared to speak about their emotions so freely. It is a unique collection of honest reflections and I commend Ann for bringing such a collection together…”

Royal College of Nursing, Cancer Nursing Newsletter, 2008:

“Adds to the canon of literature of personal narratives in the experience of illness, death and bereavement…The simple reflections on complex areas of care resonate long after you have finished reading the book.” 

The Times (Carol Midgley), 2009:

“Shines a light on hospices, this little known but crucial service. Unlike a hospital, there is no regimentation and no uniforms. If patients want to die at home, everything possible is done to make it happen. If he or she wants a beer, or to bring in their own pets or to have a bath last thing at night, they can.”

The Journal of Palliative Care (Prof Steven Claxton-Oldfield) 2009:

“Peeks into the lives of those who provide medical and compassionate care to dying patients and their loved ones during their most vulnerable moments. Some of the stories are sad, some are amusing, but all are inspiring. This book offers a snapshot of hospice care at its finest. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in caring for people who are facing death, and anyone considering the option of a residential hospice program for themselves or a loved one.”

Nursing and Therapies News (Rachel Anticoni), 2009:

“Describes how it is the norm within a hospice to go the extra mile – and how staff in hospices often take on whatever role is needed with patients. Healthcare professionals who work in hospices will find it of interest and some relatives who have a family member in a hospice may find it reassuring.”

Mature Times (Jayne Warren), 2007:

“At last, someone has written a book encapsulating the work of hospices as seen through the eyes of the people who work in them…Enlightening reading for all healthcare professionals in palliative care. Highly recommended.”

The Lamp (Jeannette Bromfield), 2008:

“Enlightening reading for all healthcare professionals in palliative care, including volunteer, administrative and support staff.”

Hospice Information Bulletin (Mike Warren), 2008:

“This fascinating book describes the motivations, rewards, aspirations and stresses of a group of people who work in hospices…. It would be a good read for the layman with no great knowledge of hospice care and would help inexperienced professionals understand the real meaning of palliative care.”

Excerpts from Readers’ Reviews

From people working in hospice or other health care

“As a medical ethicist in a teaching hospital, I am moved by the candour of staff, specifically when they talk about the difficulties experienced and what they do to cope. It makes the mission and work real. There is nothing academic in the understanding we have after reading about what people do, why they do it and what it actually means to patients and their families. We are in the experience. Very helpful for the people who actually do the work. It makes legitimate what we think and feel, but are reluctant to admit to – let alone speak about.”

If you want to know how it is behind the scenes in a hospice, this book tells it like it is. Lots of stories from those working there in all capacities, and told in an engaging manner, it can be dipped into and out. I would recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about hospices, both specifically and in general.”

“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. The advice is helpful for us all whether we are dealing with the death of a loved one or seeking knowledge about our own passing.”

“Enlightening reading for anyone who wants to understand what makes hospices the success they are, including members of the community at large. After reading the book, our hospice cleaner said “this is just as it is”.

“I will certainly include this as a resource for students when I teach the palliative care course at our university…Thanks for this important work.” Professor of Nursing

As a palliative care physician working in the hospice setting, reading this book helped me understand and relate to the many roles and perspectives in the hospice, from the chef to the nursing staff. It helped me see other coping mechanisms and struggles and truly re-inspired me as to the good work being done. I can really recommend this to health care professionals, the wider multidisciplinary team and to anyone who has been through this tough time or is embarking upon it. It is not a depressing book, rather the opposite – an inspiring look at resolve and compassion.”

“As a hospice nurse, I found this book to be a true representation of the complex feelings and emotions one feels when caring for a terminal patient.”

“Should be read by all medical people and anyone facing end-of-life issues with family or friends. I thought I knew quite a bit about how a hospice works, but I learned a lot. A hospice is not a sad place, it’s a place of peace for living until the end comes and a comfort for families. It’s interesting reading what staff have to say about working in a hospice. A very important book on the subject.”

“As a GP, what I like about this book is that it gives voice to such a variety of hospice staff, including the Patient Affairs Officer and even the chef, describing in moving detail the challenges and rewards of working in a hospice. It is written with a clarity and sensitivity that make the book a pleasure to read. Some passages made me cry and. rather to my surprise, others made me laugh. In spite of its subject, it is full of life, honest and interesting. A fascinating read.”

As a trained nurse, I found book is very honest and down to earth. The passages from interviews are short and easy to read. It has given me a lot of confidence that should I (or anyone I care about) need the services of a hospice, it would be a good place to be.  Many issues hospice staff struggle with are very similar issues encountered by hospital staff.  There is no getting away from death – but thankfully there are hospices that make it more bearable. Thank you very writing a very good book!”

“A real eye-opener and a must for people who are thinking they might want to work in a hospice, we get to understand the highs and lows of everyday life in the hospice and how the staff cope and the impact they have.”

From other readers

“Who would think a book about a hospice would be so enjoyable? I learned so much. It’s such a wonderful place to live and die. The people who work there learn to live life to the fullest. The author has done amazing research and covers a vast array of subjects. I highly recommend this book to everyone.”

“These are true life conversations with people who work in hospices. These angels of mercy share their thoughts and feelings about their jobs and enlarge on the kind of end-of-life care that we don’t want to think about until it’s our turn to undergo it. This work is obviously a vocation, and we must be thankful for these people who want to make our passage out of this world as easy as possible.”

“Tugs at your heart strings and makes you realise that the troubles in your life are not as important as those dealing with their own mortality. It makes you take inventory of your own life.”

“A lovely moving collection of stories from people in all walks of the end of life care profession, varying from healthcare assistants, nurses, doctors, chaplains and even a chef! They all had experiences to be learnt from and knowledge to pass on. I was moved and overwhelmed at times by the care, compassion and honesty they portrayed. …truly demonstrates the wondrous gift of a good death and shows end of life care at its best.”

“A brave book – not afraid to confront both the sadness and the opportunity that comes from working with people at the end of their lives. I would recommend it to anyone who really wants to understand hospice life and what a good death really means.”

“A very good read – I didn’t realize that hospice care did so much. I always thought there were certain jobs that take special people to do and this is one of them. Thank you to all that work to make one’s possible final days filled with care, dignity and pain controlled. I will no longer look at a hospice facility the same again.”

“I am left with sincere admiration and gratitude for hospice workers. These are caring, dedicated people helping the residents live life to its fullest up to the moment of death. The book gives us a comprehensive picture of hospice life from the most mundane to the complex emotions surrounding death. I recommend this book for anyone and everyone—the subject is relevant to us all. Ultimately, you will come away feeling uplifted.”

“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. Great book”

“An absolutely wonderful book. It’s a must-read for everyone. The way people in hospice care are dealing with this end-of-life care is, as strange as it sounds, wonderful – and it may come as a surprise that it is not all darkness and gloom. I was so glad to come across this eye-opening book. I will treasure it forever.”

“No one wants to think about death, so I give the staff a lot of credit for doing what they do. I was particularly interested in how they handled people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds…. I became choked up when thinking about the families in denial. Death becomes even more sad when the person is not ready to go and the family is not ready to let them go and can’t face up to it. Overall, a great hospice-advocacy book.”

“An absorbing read. Learning about the different roles of the people who work in a hospice and how they interact with each other and the public at large was really interesting. The accounts come across as very honest – you felt you were getting to eavesdrop on conversations where people were opening up.”

“Whilst I knew how tenderly and lovingly all staff looked after my mum, this book brought all the good memories back. Ann Richardson paints an authentic and honest picture of life in a hospice. On occasions I even chuckled, but above all the brutal honesty conveyed is very moving. The book has a simple easy-flowing style which helps deliver this difficult subject to your heart. Thank you for this insight.”

“This book has really helped me understand what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and appreciate the level of care and compassion staff provide. I have a new appreciation of the challenges carers face every day, and also feel more prepared to deal with the next stage when the day comes. I recognised a lot of the empathy and human stories in the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a relative or friend in a care home!”

“I was reluctant to read this book because I thought it would be depressing to read about dying people. In fact, it is full of life and incredibly uplifting, because people who work in hospices are very impressive in what they do for patients. It’s also fascinating to learn what goes on behind the scenes and how staff cope.”

“This book is on a subject that should be of universal interest – death – and how hospice care makes the process less painful, physically and psychologically. It is a skilfully organized series of interviews, easy to read and full of unforgettable, deeply personal stories.”

“The author did an excellent job. For some, the word “hospice” may seem intimidating. However, this book is about living; it depicts the lives of individuals who are devoted to selflessly aid fellow human beings who are facing their darkest time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, because it teaches poignant life lessons we all should be aware of in order to be our best selves. I highly recommend it!”

“A detailed look at what hospice is and how it functions as seen through the eyes of all the many workers who contribute to it. What struck me as significant was that workers described their time there as a privilege to share quality end of life care. A ‘privilege’…the most telling section of the book.”