Sidmouth Hospice at Home fulfils local man's final wish

Den Ryall, who died peacefully in his own bed thanks to Sidmouth Hospice at Home

Den Ryall, who died peacefully in his own bed thanks to Sidmouth Hospice at Home - Credit: Sidmouth Hospice at Home

Local couple Den and June Ryall were able to spend Den’s final days together at home, thanks to the Specialist Nursing Team from Sidmouth Hospice at Home, who are marking the first anniversary of their new service on the 25th January.   

Den died peacefully in his own bed holding June’s hand, which was his last wish. 

Den was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and had been receiving palliative care at the RD&E Hospital. His last wish was to die at his home in Sidmouth with his wife of 64 years June at his side. This was made possible by the Sidmouth Hospice at Home service which funds a team of dedicated specialist nurses, managed by the RD&E.  

June Ryall with Liz from Sidmouth Hospice at Home

June Ryall with Liz, an integrated palliative care nurse specialist with Sidmouth Hospice at Home. - Credit: Sidmouth Hospice at Home

With the support of his family and the Sidmouth Hospice at Home nurses, Den was able to be cared for at home where he had lived for 35 years. He loved the view of the garden from his favourite chair where he enjoyed the sun rays and his beloved home-cooked meals including the fruits of his labour from his vegetable patch.   

June said: “I did not know what Sidmouth Hospice at Home did.  It’s only until you need the service that you realise how important it is. Den’s wish was to die at home, holding my hand surrounded by his family. He was desperate not to die in hospital. Den had a good attitude towards his situation but was worried about having to return to hospital and the nurses constantly reassured him that they would look after him at home. He really liked the visits as he felt they were reassuring.” 

June was full of praise for the nursing team, which since January 2021 has been providing 24/7 palliative care for all patients in the Sid Valley who need it. 

She said:“ I cannot say enough about the nurses and their support. I couldn’t believe that they would come and were at the end of the phone day or night if I needed them, especially during the night as that can be the most frightening time. I want people to know what a fantastic service this is and how lucky we are to have it in our area and that Den got his wish to die at home because of it. It felt like the nurses were wrapping me up in a big supportive hug and that I was not alone, removing anxiety and allowing me to spend quality time with Den.” 

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Studies show that patients like Den usually want to die at home, rather than in a hospital or hospice. Sidmouth Hospice at Home aims to make that possible for everyone in the Valley, unlike elsewhere, where palliative home nursing is only provided for certain health conditions.  In its first six months, over 95 per cent of people helped by the charity died at home and all died where they wanted, compared to just 62 per cent before the service started.  

But as June’s experience shows, the team’s work goes far beyond nursing, providing practical help, psychological and emotional support to meet the individual needs of each patient and their family and working with other community organisations to provide holistic care.  A specially trained 80-person volunteer team provides transport, sitting and befriending services, and bereavement support.  The team works with each patient and their family to ensure they have the best possible quality of life and can remain in their preferred place of care. 

Sidmouth Hospice at Home receives no Government funding and can only provide its service thanks to donations and legacies. It costs the charity approximately £100 for a specialist palliative nurse call-out to provide care at night in a patient’s home.  

You can help the charity mark this first anniversary and carry on its work in years to come by donating via the charity's website.

For further information regarding the charity’s services or ways to support it, please call Natalie Searle on 01395 578707.