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Marie Curie Launches New Toolkit To Encourage More Hospice Men’s Sheds

End of life charity Marie Curie has produced a comprehensive toolkit for hospices across the UK aiming to establish “Men’s Sheds” as an integral part of their support services. The toolkit has been developed following a new study looking at the benefits of developing a Men’s Shed group within a hospice environment.

A Men’s Shed represents a physical space where a group of men can meet, organise, and participate in social activities and talk to others who are in a similar situation to themselves.

Historically hospices have struggled to reach men with an illness they are likely to die from, or those with a partner at the end of life who often then find themselves alone after many years of living with someone.

The study, conducted by the University of Warwick and funded by Marie Curie, investigated the ways a Men’s Shed could promote the health and well-being of men who might otherwise avoid traditional health services.

The researchers found that the Men’s Shed was an important place for men who needed support when dealing with issues related to the end of life. However, of over 200 hospices in the UK, only five have a Men’s Shed group. The toolkit is designed to help hospices quickly and easily set-up this vital resource.

Paul Whelan (67) from Sheldon, West Midlands was referred to Marie Curie following a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease in 2015 and is a founder member of the Men’s Shed at the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands.

He said: “When I first came to the hospice there was no designated space or group specifically for men to talk about their experiences. We originally met in the hospice but in 2020 we had raised enough money for our own space in the grounds of the hospice.

“Men who are living with a terminal illness or grieving can come to the shed to share their experience, knowing that others in the group will know exactly what they’re going through.

The group who meets every Tuesday has 14 members which allows the men to speak freely.

Paul goes on to say: “Men’s Shed has made an enormous difference to me. If I didn’t have the Men’s Shed, I’d be lost.”

Rachel Perry, study co-lead and Research Nurse at the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands, said: “Men’s Sheds represent more than just physical spaces. Our research found that our members found companionship, practical and emotional support with others who were experiencing similar issues to themselves.

“Many members described how they had become more isolated from their wider friendship groups when they were bereaved or as their disease progressed and described how attending and being a member of the Men’s Shed group helped to lessen the feelings of being alone.

“Some of the members explained that attending the Men’s Shed motivated them and encouraged them to think about their physical wellbeing. This included the benefits of getting out of the house as well as the activities undertaken at the group, along with the gains from caring for themselves that came from improved mental and emotional wellbeing.”

Dr John I MacArtney, study co-lead and Marie Curie Associate Professor, University of Warwick goes on to say: “Members described the benefit of talking about issues when they came together at the Men’s Shed that they did not feel able to share with others, including family, for fear of upsetting them.

“It is a social space, where members came to chat and take part in a range of activities. But it also provided a way to support each other emotionally, as they could appreciate and understand how other members felt.

“It was clear to us that a Men’s Shed can be an essential part of hospice services. By developing this toolkit, we hope more hospices will set up a Men’s Shed and recognise it as a crucial part of supporting men who are living with a terminal illness or have been affected by bereavement.”