Special nurses who care for the terminally ill in Norfolk

As Marie Curie Cancer Care gets ready for its annual Lights to Remember service in Norwich, Emma Knights finds out more about the charity's vital work.

Marie Curie nurses are often described as angels for the way they help the terminally-ill die with dignity at home.

As the charity gets ready for its annual Lights to Remember service at Norwich Cathedral next month, Emma Knights finds out more about Marie Curie Cancer Care's vital work.

Caring for the dying can never be an easy job, but a dedicated team of very special people are there to help the terminally-ill spend their precious last days at home.

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They are the Marie Curie nurses, part of the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care which, since 1948, has been dedicated to helping patients with terminal cancer and other illnesses, and supporting their families too.

Deven Seetanah, Marie Curie's clinical lead nurse for Norfolk and who has been with the charity for six years, explained: 'Our Marie Curie nurses are there to help people at the end of life spend the last few days or weeks in their own home.

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'They can die with dignity with their family there, with their dog running around the house, with their favourite music playing and with the sunshine streaming through their window. These are often things we take for granted, but they are often very important to people at the end of their life.

'Being at home means the patient is in their own environment and they can have their whole family around them whenever they want – that makes it a personal death, that makes it a dignified death.'

Mr Seetanah said in Norfolk Marie Curie has teams of registered nurses and healthcare assistants who provide much-needed night-time care.

The main difference between the two roles is that the registered nurses have the authority to administer more types of medication, but both are known as Marie Curie nurses and both offer invaluable help and support. They are delivering care for patients at the end of their lives who wish to stay at home for the last few days, weeks or months.

'The care we deliver is nursing care and everything to do with the patient and the family's emotional and psychological care. We help with the start of the bereavement process when people talk about how they are going to cope and we can support families in the first few hours after their loved one dies,' Mr Seetanah explained.

'There are no barriers to what we do. It is really a very holistic approach and the support we give is through the night from 10pm until 7am. The registered nurse or healthcare assistant will be with one family for all of that time and be totally dedicated to that family.'

In West Norfolk there are three full-time Marie Curie health care assistants who between them deliver 450 hours of care per month.

The central Norfolk Marie Curie team covers south and north Norfolk, Norwich and the Broadland area.

The team is made up of four registered nurses and 11 healthcare assistants who deliver about 1,100 hours of care each month.

In Great Yarmouth and Waveney there are eight healthcare assistants and one registered nurse who between them deliver about 1,000 hours of care per month.

Mr Seetanah said they work in partnership with NHS Norfolk and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, and that patients in need of the help of a Marie Curie nurse are referred to the charity by a district nurse. 'The care is delivered free to patients so nobody has to worry about how much they have to pay,' he said. 'We endeavour to ensure that everyone gets the care they need. We do not turn any patients away.'

Read the EDP over the coming weeks for more about Marie Curie and Lights to Remember.

For more information on Marie Curie Cancer Care and the help available, or to donate funds or find out how to help with fundraising, visit www.mariecurie.org.uk or call Marie Curie's area manager Judith Hall on 01284 747385.

• Marie Curie's annual Lights to Remember Service at Norwich Cathedral is taking place on Tuesday, December 6 at 7.30pm.

It is a special service to remember lost loved-ones, dedicate a light in their memory and raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Everybody is welcome to attend the service during which the Christmas tree in Norwich Cathedral will be lit for the first time. Some of the Marie Curie nurses and local dignitaries will be at the service which will include carols and a selection of readings. A special book of remembrance will also be on display. Anybody who wishes for a name to be included in the book and to donate funds to Marie Curie Cancer Care should fill in the coupon with this story, below right, and send it to the fundraising office.

• A Sing Out concert in aid of Marie Curie is taking place at The King of Hearts in Norwich next SaturdayNov 26. The Grand Tour in Music includes opera, operetta, musical theatre and more. It features Pip Jenkinson (soprano) Christopher Speake (tenor), Judith Bell on the clarinet, and Adrian Turner as the accompanist. The concert starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost �10. To book call 01603 436510 or call Prelude Records on 01603 628319.

• emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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