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Strawberry Festival CREDIT: Mercy Hospice

Living in a Hospice
Friday 16 October 2009, 10:35AM
By Shashank Bharadwaj


Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby is a shining example of what a hospice can do that a hospital cannot. While both provide good medical care for the terminally ill patients – what distinguishes Mercy Hospice is a promise of enriching experiences and exciting adventures to give patients a sense of well-being that is far removed from an impending death.

Although no one can stop death, Mercy helps people live a joy-filled life in their last years.

Contrary to people’s perception of Mercy Hospice being a “place-to-die”, it is actually a place that is striving hard to lend a new meaning to “living” for the terminally ill patients.

As they say, people should live like there will be no tomorrow. Most people take it for granted that tomorrow will come, while this may be true for the large part, it does pose an intriguing question. What if tomorrow were never to come, will you live your life differently today? If tomorrow never comes, will you do what you have always harboured a dream of?

Ask a patient at the Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby and the answers one encounters are as intriguing as the questions.

Lena Illes has been a patient at the Mercy Hospice for over 5 years.

She was paralysed on the left side of her body and was in need of constant care. “The doctor advised my family that I didn’t have a long time and they will have to take care of me as I might be bed ridden,” says Lena.

Although the family did take care of her well, she decided to come to the Hospice to spend her next years living life to the full. “I was sick all the time, I had to learn things all over again, I could not lift a cup of coffee with my left hand but, since I have been here and have seen other people go through the same things, it doesn’t feel so bad now, if they can do it, I can do it too,” she says.

Patients from all walks of life and age groups meet every Tuesday at the “Opening Doors” programme conducted by the Hospice. It is a program that lets patients “spoil themselves” and get pampered at the hands of professional beauty and make-up artists.

Here they meet and greet fellow patients, the women can get their hair, eyebrows and make-up done; the men although outnumbered can get a massage if hair or make-up does not excite them, and for that two hours the atmosphere at the hospice turns festive with patients chattering and mingling with each other.

It is here the difference between a hospice and hospital becomes apparent as the hospice in its entirety transforms into an extended family for one and all.

“I come here to relax, have a cup of coffee and chat with friends, but, I also like getting my nails done, it feels good to have the support of so many people around who are in the same boat as you are,” she laughingly adds.

A mother of 5 children and 9 great grand children, she feels life has turned a full circle for her.

Although Lena’s family lives close to her and meets her every week she deeply misses her son who works overseas.

“I was a caregiver before and now I have a caregiver to look after me. This can happen to anyone anytime, all one can do is just have fun and ignore the hard part.”

Walking through the corridors of the Hospice one cannot be mesmerized enough by the art-filled interiors that look more like a five-star hotel than a hospital.

But, what makes Mercy special is also the people who work there. Mercy has over 400 dedicated volunteers, who work along with regular staff providing pastoral care, running hospice shops, help with clerical work and a range of other duties that make the hospice run smoothly.

About Mercy Hospice:

Mercy Hospice Auckland provides a range of specialist community palliative care and hospice services for people facing life limiting illnesses, caring for them with the utmost professional skill, compassion and quality of service.

They also offer support to family, friends and carers to help them cope with problems arising from the illness and to rebuild their lives afterwards.

All the services are offered free to patients and their families, regardless of age, ethnicity, means or religion if they live in the Auckland District Health Board area.

Specialist inpatient care is also provided to people from Waiheke and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Services are provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The range of services includes:

  • Specialist Care in the community
  • Thirteen specialist inpatient beds
  • Counselling and family, spiritual and cultural support
  • Education and training
  • Day Unit INDEX