People experiencing homelessness can find accessing end of life care to be challenging. St Gemma’s has launched a project aimed at improving access to palliative care for people who are homeless in Leeds.
Despite the ongoing pressures of managing a pandemic, St Gemma’s has continued to innovate and reach out to groups and individuals in the community who may need our care but can’t easily access it. We have identified that people experiencing homelessness rarely receive palliative or end of life care, despite often having complex needs and health problems.
In response to this, our new project aims to improve palliative care support for homeless people across Leeds and provide dignity and support at the end of life.
Leading the innovative project for St Gemma’s is Senior Nurse, Nicky Hibbert who explained: “Homeless people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to accessing healthcare. Many of them are relatively young and may die of diseases which are preventable or treatable such as tuberculosis or pneumonia. Their deaths may be sudden and they generally do not receive end of life care. Their deaths may lack any dignity.
“We have found that many people experiencing homelessness don’t engage with healthcare services. Many of them are unwell, but it’s not easy to assess them, give a clear diagnosis or predict how their condition might develop. It might even just be a challenge making an initial contact with someone. We were really keen to tackle this inequality, and ensure that anyone needing our care would be offered it.
“We’ve been working with a whole range of other organisations supporting homeless people across Leeds including local hostels, charities and support groups. We’ve been building lasting relationships with them, providing training and support to give them confidence to help identify anyone particularly vulnerable and know how to contact us quickly if they need us. We have also made it clear that St Gemma’s care is not just in the hospice building, which some may find intimidating – we provide most of our care in the Leeds community wherever people live, whether that be at someone’s home, in a care home, in a homeless hostel, or sadly on the street.
“In one month alone, more homeless people were referred to our services than we’d had in the previous 5 years.”
“So far, we’ve made good progress. In one month alone, more homeless people were referred to our services than we’d had in the previous 5 years. The project team has worked with patients in a number of ways including: helping with pain and other symptoms, supporting people to regain contact with loved ones, assisting individuals to receive benefits, supporting them to attend for hospital treatment, recording their end of life wishes and preferences and ultimately supporting them to die in a safe place of their choice.
“It is truly humbling when we can give someone the care they need when they need it the most.”