Giving young people independence while under our care

Charlotte Walker, our director of Clinical services explained how we give young people and teenagers and independence during their stays with us.

Children’s hospice care can often be long-term, offering regular planned respite, as well emergency and symptom control stays throughout a child’s life.

This is particularly the case where medical advances mean that children with life-limiting conditions can survive much longer than was previously expected. It means that for many families, their relationship with us can last for years.

When we originally opened, in 1987, we had one care area where all the children and young people stayed. Over time, we came to realise that teenagers needed their own more grown-up space.

We extended the hospice and opened Whitby Lodge in 2002, as a dedicated unit for teenagers and young people, with the aim of giving them somewhere more suited to their needs and interests.

When children reach the age of around 13, we start the transition from staying at Martin House to Whitby Lodge.

Like everything we do, this is guided by the individual child and their family — some can’t wait to move, for others it takes a bit longer and we work with them at their pace, as it can be a big change for everyone.

One of the biggest differences is that at Whitby Lodge we encourage young people come for respite stays without their family. This can be a challenge for families used to coming to Martin House together, which is why we work with them to make the transition.

But we believe it’s important to give teenagers using Martin House an experience of the independence that every young person needs as they get older.

Whitby Lodge has a very different feel from Martin House — it’s a very chilled space, with different kinds of facilities for young people to use from those in the children’s area.

We have a recording studio, which is a brilliant space for young people to get creative with our music therapists. There is also the Den, an interactive space where young people can watch films, play video games and relax.

They also have the opportunity to have trips out, which we can tailor to their individual needs and interests — everything from going to the cinema or shopping, to having afternoon tea.

One of the nicest things for young people staying at the Lodge is that they can set their own schedule. Often they are reliant on carers or family to get them up and put them to bed, and they can have a very fixed routine.

When they come to stay at Whitby Lodge, they can have a lie-in and get up when they choose — in fact, it’s rare for young people to be up before lunchtime!

Conversely, they can also stay up late, and the Lodge really comes to life at night, as lots of young people staying are rarely in bed before the early hours of the morning.

Young people really value this time — they enjoy having the chance to chat to the care team and each other, listen to music, play games, cook or even order in takeaway. In summer they’ll often gather around the firepit in the courtyard.

Many young people who use Martin House have formed friendships from their stays at the hospice over the years, and often they will book stays at the same time, so they have the chance to spend time together.

These are all things which most teenagers and young people take for granted, but mean so much to the young people who come to stay here, and give them the chance to have experiences they might not get anywhere else.

To find out more about us, our care, and how you can support us, visit www.martinhouse.org.uk.

Image of young person (boy) in Martin House

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