There’s a distinct feeling of calm as you walk around Lewis-Manning Hospice.
Bright coloured artwork created by patients covers the walls, sun streams through the light and airy rooms and the sound of laughter fills the halls.
It’s not how you would imagine a hospice to be. But that’s exactly the idea.
Since the £2.8million building was rebuilt, opening in April 2012, it has been used not only for patients with life-limiting illnesses, but also for the local community.
“That’s what the team and I want, that the building is used by the community, both for people who are well and for people who are not well,” explained chief executive Elizabeth Purcell.
“In the old days, getting a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness you felt very isolated, you didn’t feel part of a community. With us, you feel part of what we are trying to do here. By young people coming in, by students coming in you take away the fear of hospices. It’s not a world that you don’t know or you’re scared of.”
Founder trustee and director of development Rachel Lapworth added: “People think a hospice is a place to die. We always say a hospice is a place to live.”
As well as a day hospice and numerous clinics, including those focusing on breathlessness and lymphedema (swelling of the limbs), the hospice offers carers’ activities, life-rebalancing courses, physiotherapy and complementary therapy, as well as counselling.
It also has 15 residential rooms for in-patient care, one of the main reasons for knocking down the original building and creating a new one, the cost of which was funded through legacies, fundraising and loans.
The rooms are used for respite, rehabilitation and end-of-life care.
“These are people who probably know us already,” explained Rachel. “They don’t need complex interventions, but they do need some support at the end of their life, and their family needs support.
“So when it gets scary the patient is at home, people will dial 999 and be admitted to Poole or Bournemouth and they die on a trolley and their family is not supported in the way that we would support them.
“Here they feel safe on their own.”
It’s the first time the hospice has been able to offer in-patient care, but it’s clear the need for such a service is on the increase.
“Hospices used to concentrate on the very end of life,” said Elizabeth. “It seemed clear to me that with people living longer and with carers caring longer we needed to do something different. People are living with treatments and conditions they’ve never had before. There was an opportunity for us to build on what we’ve done and do something different.”
Elizabeth and Rachel are both thrilled with the new building, and everyone at Lewis-Manning is delighted it has retained the feeling of being at peace that all visitors experience at the hospice, which sits in an enviable position at Evening Hill, Poole, overlooking the harbour.
“It’s a place full of laughter and life,” said Elizabeth. “It’s about living every minute until your last minute. We look at life differently here. It’s about making the most of every moment.”
To find out more about Lewis-Manning and the services available to both patients and the wider community, search for the hospice on Facebook or visit lewis-manning.co.uk.
'It just makes us feel better'
Two of Lewis-Manning’s day hospice patients tell us why the service is so important to them.
Nikki Hastings, from Boscombe, has been attending the day hospice once a week since last May.
She credits Lewis-Manning with lifting her out of a depression.
“My nurse referred me because it would give me something to get out of bed for,” said the 39-year-old.
“Last May I wasn’t even getting out of bed, but since I’ve been coming here I’ve done so much.
"I’ve done public speaking, I’ve been filmed for The One Show and most of the things I feel I’ve achieved have been as a result of coming here.
“The site is special, it just makes you feel better. Most of the people are not in the same situation as me, but they understand.”
Sam Cashin, 46, from Parkstone, has been a patient at Lewis-Manning three times.
She currently attends the day hospice on Thursdays and the art group every Tuesday.
She said: “It’s nice to be able to talk to people that are going through the same things as you. If you talk to people that aren’t, they don’t understand. They don’t understand the pain that you’re in.
“The nurses can read your face, they know. When I first came I had big issues with anxiety. The nurses help you through things like that.
“I would recommend it to everybody.”