04 Oct Q&A with Heather Richardson, Joint Chief Executive of St. Christopher’s Hospice
Memory Bridge’s Michael Verde has been invited by St. Christopher’s Hospice to present a series of talks and trainings throughout November. Memory Bridge previously worked with the hospice on its documentary Love Is Listening: Dementia Without Loneliness, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to continue this partnership. St. Christopher’s has been providing hospice care in London for more than 50 years, based on their founder’s philosophy:
You matter because you are you and you matter until the last moment of your life.
~Dame Cicely Saunders
The hospice offers a wide range of community and educational programs, and it is consistently evolving to better serve the needs of the people it supports.
We’ve taken the opportunity for a brief Q&A with Heather Richardson, joint chief executive of St. Christopher’s Hospice. Heather holds a PhD in health management and has worked in both clinical and managerial roles, most recently as the National Clinical Lead for Help the Hospices (now Hospice UK) and Strategy Advisor at St. Joseph’s Hospice in East London. She is also an honorary professor in the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University.
Q: What initially drew you to hospice care, and what keeps you there now, more than twenty years later?
A: I trained as a nurse on a unique course that brought together mental health nursing alongside general nursing. Initially I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity to bring my learning from those two worlds together—so that we cared for someone’s mind and heart alongside their physical needs. Hospice care was the first place I found a space that allowed for that holistic attention and care for someone.
Hospice care was the first place I found a space that allowed for that holistic attention and care for someone.
Q: How have you seen approaches to end-of-life care change over the years? Where do you see hospice care heading in the future?
A: End of life has changed hugely—new conditions; much older people; and changing social contexts in which people live. Hospice care, if it is to survive and continue to be as effective as previously, needs to change in response. And it has that capacity.
We are more than a health care service—we are a community asset working with and for our communities.
Q: St. Christopher’s calls itself “more than just a hospice.” Can you tell me a little about St. Christopher’s work and philosophy? How is it different from what we’d think of as a typical hospice?
A: We are more than buildings—most of our care happens at home; we are more than care—we offer education and training and research alongside our services for patients and their families; we are more than professional care—drawing on the skills and capacity of our local community; we are more than a health care service—we are a community asset working with and for our communities.
Q: Tell me a little about your partnership with Memory Bridge. How did that begin? How has it evolved since then?
A: I heard Michael speak some three or four years ago at a conference. I was interested to explore his views further. We worked together on the film with Evelyn and during that time I realised he had a perspective that could be of value to people living in the UK.
Q: There are many organizations that offer education to carers of persons with dementia. What is it about Memory Bridge that you find unique, or that makes it a good partner for St. Christopher’s?
A: We are still exploring that. Michael’s energy, commitment, and call to the world to see and respond to people with dementia differently is inspirational and important to connect with. That is what we have started to do.
Michael’s energy, commitment, and call to the world to see and respond to people with dementia differently is inspirational and important to connect with.
Q: Can you tell us about your new Learning Hub?
A: This is a new centre that will offer training and support to the public alongside professionals. It has the capability to connect with people across the world, creating communities of learning and support that enable us to meet the challenges of end of life in an optimistic and encouraging way.