Life in Lockdown

10 June 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed life at Martin House. The hospice normally buzzes with families and activities, but now it’s a much quieter place.

We took the hard decision just before the lockdown, to cancel respite stays, and we are currently only admitting children and young people who need emergency care, end of life care, and so families can use one of our cooled bedrooms after their child has died.

It means there’s been a shift in balance towards the more poorly children in our care, so only the most seriously ill are staying at the hospice.

On top of that, we’ve had to put restrictions for infection control reasons, to protect the people in the building, and obviously our care team are in PPE, which is a big change for them and for families to deal with.

For people who haven’t used us before and don’t know us it’s probably easier to cope with, but families who are used to coming for respite breaks really notice these big changes.

One advantage we have found, particularly when caring for someone at the end of their life, is that being quieter means we can be more focused on the family.

In hospital, due to the pandemic, they might only be allowed to have one person at the bedside, but we can manage that differently and try to accommodate the family’s wishes, so parents and siblings can all be present with their child.

Most of our families have been self-isolating to shield their children, so we have been working hard to make sure we can still support them through this time.

Our care team has been doing lots of family contact calls by phone or video, just to keep in touch. It’s an opportunity for families to talk about things like advanced care plans – a tool which sets out what kind of care they want to receive as their child’s condition changes – because the situation in healthcare has changed so much at the moment.

If their plan was to go into hospital in a particular circumstance, they may want to review that, because it might mean the family can’t be together. These kinds of conversations give everyone the chance to discuss the fears they have about what the pandemic means to them.

We’ve also been able to do some video consultations, for things like symptom control. It means we can assess and advice a child or young person and their family, so GPs can prescribe for them. That could mean they avoid a hospital admission, although we do want families to feel confident to do that, if that’s what’s needed for their child.

We’ve also used our family Facebook group to keep a flavour of Martin House in their lives. Our artists and music therapists have created all kinds of videos with projects, songs and activities.

It’s also been a way for families to continue getting the peer support they would ordinarily get from each other when they stay at Martin House. They’ve been sharing their experiences, concerns and activities with each other, and that’s been a really positive development.

Caring for a poorly child 24/7 is demanding, and families often talk about how the short breaks they get at Martin House give them the break they need to carry on.

We’re concerned that families won’t be able to sustain that in the long-term without the extra support we give, and so we’re looking at how we can provide the care families need in the new normal, as we come out the other side of the pandemic.

You can support Martin House through this crisis at