Back to News


“Dougie Mac helped me come to terms with the idea that we would lose dad; and they would be there holding our hands.”

Dad’s not here anymore, but he’s still my hero. I’ve lived with the fear of losing him since my mid-twenties, when I realised that I would have to experience his loss, unless he was to experience mine, which isn’t the right order of life is it? 

Dad lived a happy and healthy life. Everything in moderation. Not a day of illness until things started to wear out when he hit 90. He didn’t want to be 90. ‘All these things that come with old age!’ Still, he was always grateful for the gift of old age, aware that so many don’t reach their nineties. 

He was diagnosed with heart failure in December 2019. He was clearly becoming more tired and old. I persuaded him to take up the appointment for an echocardiogram to see what was going on with his heart. 

The consultant told me that the type of heart failure that dad had was sadly likely to cause quite a rapid deterioration, and he advised involving the community heart failure team, Palliative care team and Douglas Macmillan in dad’s care. 

At this point, dad was still tootling around with the aid of a walking frame and not suffering too much, so we simply had ‘maintenance’ visits from the heart failure team. 

I moved in with mum and dad during the first lockdown in March 2020, dropping off their shopping at the door simply wouldn’t have been enough. 

So I was here – in my old bedroom, listening to my parents bedtime routine, putting the kitchen to bed, garage keys in his dressing gown pocket, house alarm on….up the stairs to bed and goodnight to me in mine. 

The input of the community heart failure team during that time was invaluable, and a few times they suggested Douglas Macmillan becoming involved in Dad’s care. I was reluctant because it felt like we would be acknowledging that dad would become worse in time, and not get better. That was tough to grasp. 

But- over time and conversations, I learned that their input wasn’t only to help someone to have a good death, which we all deserve, but to help manage chronic conditions, such as heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure etc. Their knowledge and expertise in this area is vast – obviously! It’s a shame that people aren’t aware of this, and are under the mistaken view that the hospice only cares for people in their final days.

The hospice rung me regularly to check how dad was doing, and just as importantly, how I was coping. I knew they were there as much for me and mum, as for dad. It was a comfort knowing they would talk to me on the phone if I needed them, any time of the day or night. 

Dad started to suffer from atrial fibrillation in December 2020. He was really ill and at the time we were also losing his sister after a stroke. He was so poorly, I was convinced they were racing for the finishing line! We lost my dear Auntie, but dad bounced back. A Hospice nurse had visited during this time, and suggested medication we continued to use to help dad with his breathing. 

Life became harder for him, he was so exhausted. In March 2021 we brought his bed downstairs so he didn’t have the daily exhausting pull up those stairs. 

He was so sleepy, even staying awake to eat and drink was tough. But he wanted to, he tried so very hard. 

One Sunday morning in March, I woke very early, and I knew I couldn’t cope any longer – I rang the hospice at 7.30am in tears – ‘I can’t cope, I’m exhausted’ I told them.

At 9.30am a wonderful lady turned up at the front door, ‘Good morning! I’m from Hospice at Home – how can I help? Shall I start with the dishes’. She had angel’s wings under that uniform. 

For a couple of weeks, hospice at home supported me, came and gave me a break whenever they could. When I found myself back on level ground, they dropped off the visits, but I always knew they were there if I was in need again. 

The Dougie Mac team were just fantastic. They talked about how they never get used to watching people die, but what a privilege it is to help. They helped me to get used to the idea that it would happen one day, that we would lose dad, but they would be there holding our hands.

Dad passed away quite suddenly one Thursday teatime on July 1st. ‘We’ve all got to go sometime,’ he used to say. And if you have to go, that’s the way to do it, fall asleep and be held close by your family, all the time telling you how loved you will always be.

-Carol Eldershaw