This Friday, March 27 is Daffodil Day, the 27th year of the Irish Cancer Society’s (ICS) biggest nationwide fundraising day. The Leitrim branch of the association launched the day at a local level at a special function in The Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon recently.
One of the vital services the ICS provides is a home nursing service called Night Nursing. Night nurses provide end of life care for cancer patients and their families in their own homes.
They also provide extra support to families and their loved ones during what is a difficult and anxious time. The ICS relies totally on voluntary charitable donations from the public on days such as Daffodil Day to maintain such services.
Siobhan McGrail from Ballinaglera is a night nurse with the ICS. Working as a Specialist Renal Nurse in the Dialysis Unit at Cavan General Hospital during the day for the last 15 years, Siobhan gives her time to the ICS four nights a month as a Night Nurse in the Leitrim/Cavan/Longford area.
Death is an eventuality that comes to us all. As a young student nurse, Siobhan believed that her role was to save lives at all costs and that allowing patients to die was not an option.
But attitudes change and over the years with time and maturity Siobhan arrived at the realisation that dying was an eventuality and that it was indeed possible to as she says; “have a good death.”
And this is where the ICS’s Night Nurses come into play.
Arriving at approximately 11pm, Siobhan assists the patient’s family in any way she can. Siobhan explains: “For many, it is the first uninterrupted night’s sleep in weeks or months.
“We begin work at about 11pm and finish up at 7am. We liaise closely with the specialist palliative care team who advise us on what has been happening during the day and the patients’ requirements for the night.
“My role as a Night Nurse is to assist patients and their families on their final journey in whatever way I can. Physically, emotionally and spiritually as it is an holistic approach.
“The majority of patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness will wish to die at home in familiar surroundings with their family and friends.”
75 percent of cancer patients wish to die at home yet only 25 percent get to do so. But while it is often a time of great sadness, it can also be a time of great peace and dignity.
Siobhan says her job is both challenging and diverse and no two nights are the same.
“I have cared for many patients in their homes from 15 to 100-years-old, all from different backgrounds and situations. It is a very difficult time for the family and my role is to talk and listen to them and offer support.”
Night Nurses are free of charge for up to ten nights to those who require their service.
In 2014, 1,968 patients throughout Ireland availed of the service with the nurses providing in total, 7,770 nights of care.
All nurses are An Bord Altranais (Irish Nursing Board) registered , reference checked and Garda vetted.
“Both patients and families tell us they feel more supported and reassured by the presence of an ICS Nurse”, Siobhan says.
To book an ICS Night Nurse, you must first consult the health professional who is looking after your loved one as they need to make the request for you.
The ICS cannot take direct bookings. If you have any questions about the service, you can contact the National Cancer Helpline on freephone 1800 200 700.
Keep an eye out for volunteers selling ICS daffodils across County Leitrim this Friday, Daffodil Day.
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