Coronavirus: ‘Difficulties of not being able to hold a hand or give hug as we provide end of life care’

Hospice at Home healthcare assistant Julie White wearing her PPE. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Hospice at Home healthcare assistant Julie White wearing her PPE. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

In the first of a weekly column from Saint Francis Hospice, Julie White - a healthcare assistant with its Hospice at Home team – explains how coronavirus is impacting on her work.

My role as a healthcare assistant has dramatically changed since the outbreak of coronavirus.

This is an extremely difficult time for all and to have a loved one at home receiving end of life care is no doubt adding to fear and anxiety.

We support patients in their own home for end of life care. We like to be part of the family but it’s even more difficult now as we are all wearing PPE (personal protective equipment). This includes gloves, aprons and surgical mask.

We, as health professionals, are struggling with social distancing as a lot of our work involves touch and for us not to be able to hold someone’s hand, give a kind hug and reassurance, is very hard.

We want our families see that we are empathetic and showing compassion but the PPE makes this so difficult.

With the mask we wear covering half of our face, families are unable to see our reassuring smile.

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We worry that in the bubble of someone’s home they are not always following social distancing.

We need to protect, not only the patient, but also ourselves so we can continue to provide a well needed service in our catchment areas of Havering, Barking Dagenham, Brentwood and Redbridge.

But despite all the challenges we face, we remain hopeful and we will continue to support our local community.

I’m so proud to be part of a wonderful team who make it possible for patients to fulfil their wish to spend their last few days or weeks in the comfort of their home as we know this means so much to people.

Families often tell us how grateful they are that we are there to make sure their loved one is comfortable and pain free so they can spend precious moments by their side.

And knowing we are making what is often a very emotional time for families a bit easier to cope with, is hugely rewarding.

I would like to thank all those who support our hospice. The hospice is a charity and is facing a funding crisis for the first time in its 35-year history.

We rely on donations and need the help of our community to ensure we will be there to support those who need us in the future. If you can, please donate today by visiting