NINETY-five-year-old Rita Quail from Teignmouth had her heartfelt wish come true recently when, with the support of Rowcroft Hospice, she was able to relive cherished memories on Teignmouth seafront.

As a patient with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and with limited communication and mobility, Rita’s dream was simple yet profound: to visit the seaside to remember happy days spent there with her late husband Albert and their three children.

With the support of Rowcroft’s caring team, Rita’s dream came true one cold, sunny day last November with the help of a wheelchair, hoist and specially adapted vehicle.

Rita’s daughters, Hazel, Megan, and Fay, expressed their gratitude for the trip: ‘Mum used to walk along the seafront with her husband Albert when they were courting and during their 75 years of marriage. Although Albert sadly passed away in 2022, Mum’s wish was to visit the seaside at least one more time’ they said.

‘It was a lovely gesture from Rowcroft to give our mother some relief to her ongoing debilitating illness, giving her a sense of tranquillity and overall happiness for a brief moment, and putting a huge smile on her face!

95-year-old Rita relives cherished Teignmouth memories thanks to charity
(Rowcroft Hospice )

‘It was wonderful for Mum to have a trip out as she has been housebound for years apart from an occasional visit to hospital.

‘And to relive a moment of happiness shared with her husband in years gone by’ they added.

Rita had run a wool and craft shop before the onset of MND – a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects more than 5,000 adults in the UK.

MND targets the brain and spinal cord, attacking the nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work.

Unable to walk and with two live-in carers assisting with all physical and domestic tasks, Rita can no longer speak clearly and her communication is very limited.

To express her needs to her carers, she makes sounds, nods her head and spells out words using an alphabet sheet.

Rowcroft’s Occupational Therapist Izzy Warren is one member of the team who has been supporting Rita at home and who accompanied Rita to the seafront with Rowcroft’s Occupational Therapy Technical Instructor, Jo Brooking, and Rowcroft’s Maintenance Technician, Graham Hill, who provided the transportation.

Izzy said: ‘My role is to support patients to achieve their goals and wishes. Meeting individual care needs is important and our focus is on maximising quality of life.

‘We do this not only by providing special equipment to help people in their day-to-day lives, but also by asking our patients ‘”what is important to you?”

‘In this way, a good day is measured by purpose, by helping someone to achieve their goals and wishes.

‘When we asked Rita what would bring meaning to her life, she indicated that she wanted to go to Teignmouth seaside as it’s a place steeped in memories of her time with her family. It was clear that the trip meant so much; she had a smile on her face from start to finish!

95-year-old Rita relives cherished Teignmouth memories thanks to charity
(Rowcroft Hospice )

The Rowcroft team has supported Rita at home through a diverse team including clinical nurse specialists and other professionals.

The hospice is committed to true person-centred care, and continues to make a significant impact in the local community, going beyond stereotypical perceptions of hospice care. Rowcroft combines its expertise with other NHS professionals to offer a holistic multidisciplinary team approach.

While Rowcroft cares for 2,500 patients like Rita annually, in recent years, the hospice has noticed a substantial increase in the number of patients with neurological conditions such as MND, Parkinsons and dementia.

The charity recognises the many complex needs and diverse challenges for these patients and for their carers, and helps patients and their families prepare for their future and make the most out of the time they have left.

‘Many people know that we provide care to cancer patients with a terminal diagnosis but they are often unaware that we deliver care to people with all kinds of complex conditions, such as MND, respiratory and cardiological illnesses,’ said Izzy.

‘All of these patients require highly specialist care, and we are extremely grateful for the community’s support in helping us to deliver this.‘

‘Rita was taken back in time, with the experience sparking joyful memories of Albert and her children.

‘It gave us a picture of the Rita she used to be, and it was wonderful that she had the chance to relive those happy times.

‘As Rowcroft staff, we’re very much aware that our patients have a life that extends far beyond the life-limiting illness and symptoms that we see before us.

‘Through our trip, we got a glimpse of the real Rita, the person she is inside.

‘It’s important that people are not defined by the illness that they are experiencing.‘