HOSPICE staff have been tapping into technology to prevent patients and their families feeling isolated during the pandemic.

The Family Support and Bereavement Team at St Teresa’s Hospice has been operating throughout the Covid-19 lockdown using the internet, telephone and video conferencing to stay in touch.

St Teresa’s Hospice provides in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire. Some day services were suspended because of the pandemic, but the caring and advice calls have continued throughout.

The hospice Family Support Team has been continuing to offer specialist social work support and counselling to anyone diagnosed with a palliative or life-limiting illness, as well as their carers and families.

This has included telephone counselling to patients and carers, including children and young people, well-being plans with patients and carers to help with managing stress, anxiety, sleep problems and support to access benefits.

The team has also been offering help with the social aspects of Advance Care Planning, such as lasting power of attorney, wills, funerals, care arrangements and family support.

Staff have continued to support and advise children about death, dying and illness and provide information on accessing support on housing, employers, schools, voluntary groups, health and social care.

Family Support Team manager Deborah Robinson said: “Many people have been shielding at home for longer than we initially thought and a number said that they were missing the company, while others missed the support they received from coming to the hospice.

“In response to this, we are offering telephone contact and an informal well-being group via a video link, which is open to anyone living with a life-limiting illness and their families. It works really well and it is encouraging to learn what you can do with technology.”

Meeting once a week, Wellbeing Wednesdays are trialling a range of practices including mindfulness, tai-chi or relaxation exercises, with time to chat. Run by hospice staff, the sessions can be accessed via smart phones, laptops or computers with their help.

An on-line Carers’ Café group has also been set up for people in similar situations to meet one another and share their experiences.

“Supported by staff from the Family Support Team, this gives people an opportunity to meet and reduce any feelings of isolation many carers feel,” Deborah said.

Direct bereavement counselling for families is also being offered by video link.

“Our philosophy is really simple – we are just there to listen to any concerns and that support will continue for as long as it is needed,” she added.

Any member of the community wanting to access services should contact the Family Support Team on (01325) 254321 or make contact via the website at www.darlingtonhospice.org.uk.

St Teresa’s Hospice is still running an emergency appeal to fund services. Donations can be made via the Just Giving Page https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/HugToStTs.