CHRISTMAS is a special time of year for many families. 

For patients of Weldmar Hospicecare Trust it means even more – as it could well be the last they spend with theirs. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom at the trust’s hospices, or at the day centres it runs at hospitals across the county. In fact, all the stops are pulled out to make sure Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Every Wednesday, at Bridport Community Hospital, a small team of dedicated support workers from Weldmar provide day services for patients. 

The day services give patients a much-needed breather and the chance to temporarily escape their illness through art therapy, complementary therapies, word games and other stimulating activities.

Jenny Wood, day services lead, said: “Our purpose is to bring that bit of joy into people’s lives. We play quizzes and games, make crafts and a lot of patients who come in like to make gifts for their families. There is lots of fun and lots of laughter.

“We are very aware that it’s not the happiest time of year for some people. Some patients are only just confronting their illness and not everyone is keen on taking part. We respect that. It’s about providing an environment where people can relax and have fun.” 

Recently, patients have been making Christmas crafts, indulging in truffle-making and playing festive games. For some, it is the only interaction they will have. 

“Carrying on is really important and these activities provide a nice distraction,” says Jenny. “Christmas can be a reflective time, and it’s okay for people to feel melancholy, so we support them with however they might want to celebrate Christmas – if they want to celebrate Christmas.”

To celebrate Christmas, patients tucked into turkey with all the trimmings this week.

Jenny said: “Some of these people can be very socially isolated and live in rural areas and so the Christmas meal might be only interaction they have. A lot of people have many hospital appointments to go to and this will take their mind of things. 

“Weldmar is lovely at Christmas. It’s a bright, uplifting place which surprises people. It’s a happy place with some happy memories and lots of laughter. Sometimes I just step back and watch what is happening and the nicest thing is seeing people laughing. You ask people if they have enjoyed themselves and it’s always a ‘yes’ and whatever is going on at home, it’s nice to know that for one day week they have a really happy day with us. Knowing you have been a part of that is special.” 

To some, a hospice might seem like the last place to expect celebration, but at Joseph Weld, Weldmar’s inpatient unit in Dorchester, Christmas is in full swing. A huge Christmas tree twinkles in the entrance, the canteen is adorned with festive frivolity and, perhaps most surprisingly, you can hear lots of laughter. 

At Joseph Weld, round-the-clock palliative care is provided for people from across the county with cancer and other life-limiting conditions.

Sally-Anne Baverstock manages the inpatient team, which works 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, and is dedicated to making Christmas a special time for each and every patient. 

“It’s not a sad time here,” said Sally. “It’s a happy time. We sing carols, do Christmas Jumper Day, put up the decorations - all sorts. Patients really enjoy that bit of fun and that normality.

“Patients are aware it may be their last Christmas and it is about that balance between sensitivity and normality. Each patient is different and Christmas can mean different things for different people - children could be here to see parents, mums and dads could be here to see children; it’s a very sensitive time. 

“What we want to do is make Christmas the best we can 
for patients and their families. It’s a sensitive time and we have to appreciate that and get it right. 

“A patient might want to go home for a few hours, or they might want their pet to come in and be with them; however we can get it right, we will do it. We want to make it special.”

Weldmar Hospicecare Trust is an independent charity working in Dorset and all its services are provided free of charge. 

As well as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, a chaplain, social workers and bereavement workers, more than 250 people volunteer their time.

The NHS provides 32 per cent of Weldmar’s clinical care costs, meaning it needs to raise £10,000 every single day to be able to continue its vital work.

It relies massively on fundraising, which is why events like the Santa Run are so important. 

Weldmar Hospicecare’s Christmas appeal for 2017 is called ‘40 Days of Christmas’ – with the aim to raise £40,000 to help pay for the care they will deliver to patients and their families over the festive season. 

Throughout the 40 days of the campaign, they are using social media to provide an insight into Christmas at Weldmar, as well as publishing the stories on their website.

Find out more, and about how you can help, at