Can you imagine not being able to lie on a bed and cuddle with someone you love, just because you’re ill?
That’s one of the questions the team at St Wilfrid’s Hospice will be asking during their first ever Intimacy and Hospice Care Awareness Week next week (12th–16th February).
As part of the special week, the hospice team wants to start conversations around a person’s need for intimacy and closeness during illness. They are also displaying a large adjustable medical bed known as a cuddle bed, which enables people to have a partner or children next to them.
Ella Williams, St Wilfrid’s Hospice Counselling Services Lead, said: ‘Intimacy when people are ill doesn’t get talked about enough. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and we want to help change that by encouraging conversations. It’s not just about sex, it’s about cuddling and having that human contact.
‘The idea for Intimacy and Hospice Care Awareness Week came from a conversation I had with a patient who told me she had never felt able to speak to any healthcare professional about how she was feeling with regards to her relationship with her husband.
‘She had undergone quite a lot of treatment during her illness, and she told me that when she looked in the mirror she hardly recognised herself. She worried that her husband's feelings had changed towards her and she missed her cuddles with him.
‘Hospice care is about looking after all aspects of a person’s wellbeing – and this includes sex and intimacy. We want to open up the conversation so that people can continue to enjoy their relationships and be close with the people who matter most in their lives. We are also planning to purchase a cuddle bed for hospice patients,’ Ella said.
Connie Powney’s partner Michael Clarkson was aged 44 when he died from brain cancer at the hospice last year. ‘I really struggled not being able to lie down beside Michael in bed. It would have given me and our children some simple comfort having a cuddle in his final days. You get used to going to bed every night and being next to each other so it’s the strangest thing, not to be able to indulge in that very simple human need,’ she said.
There will be information and advice available all next week in The Street Café in the hospice on Broadwater Way, Eastbourne. There are also resources that might help patients and people who care about them on the hospice’s website stwhospice.org/intimacy-week
The hospice provides high-quality care and support for people across Eastbourne and the surrounding areas with life-limiting illnesses.