Holidays are vital, no matter how busy you are. They help reduce stress, improve health and ensure happiness. Both patients and carers need their time off to do the things they enjoy and recharge their batteries. However, in some cases, it is hard to take breaks from caring for someone. That is Anita’s case, a carer and Volunteer Coordinator at Christchurch Hospital.
Due to her mother’s condition, Anita can rarely go on holidays. She dedicates most of her time looking after her mum, Ann Clarke, who suffers from Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy: a condition in which amyloid deposits form in the walls of the blood vessels of the central nervous system and create brain bleeds.
When Ann was diagnosed, she soon understood that her life would take a drastic turn and she would never be able to be left alone for a long period of time. Ann’s condition requires her to be monitored frequently, and because of that, taking time away from her carers can be very difficult. Although very thankful for her daughter’s care, she knew she had to find an alternative which would allow both her daughter and herself to have a much-needed break. Both Anita and Ann had longed for an independent break, however, for Anita, leaving Ann alone or at an ordinary hotel was never an option.
That is when Ann decided to visit The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth.
Run by Dorset-based charity Macmillan Caring Locally, The Grove is a one-of-a-kind, not-for-profit hotel, located a few minutes’ walk from Bournemouth’s sandy beaches and shimmering sea, which offers a beautiful holiday retreat exclusively for those with life-limiting illnesses, along with their carers, families and friends. The hotel is run by a team of 32 loyal and long-serving staff including specialist oncology nurses on-call 24 hours a day.
Ann found out about The Grove a few years ago from a friend who was a regular visitor. After she fell ill herself, Ann decided to experience the hotel’s facilities first-hand and enable both herself and her daughter to go on their own separate holidays, care-free.
Ann started her relationship with The Grove in 2015 and has been visiting twice a year ever since.
When talking about her first impressions, Ann said:
“It was a warm welcoming feeling from when I opened the door. The staff were very supportive and lovely. Anita and Chris look after me very well but we all need a break sometimes.”
Leaving Ann in the safe hands of The Grove’s staff, Anita and Chris have been able to embark on one of their life ambitions – to complete the South Coast Path Walk. The path, which comprises 630 miles, is the longest National Trail in the country and goes along the South Coast, passing The Grove Hotel on the way.
“We don’t have to worry at all when mum is at The Grove. Mum can enjoy all the luxuries of a normal getaway whilst we have the reassurance that professional help is always close by should mum need it. Chris and I go away walking, so it would be hard to get off the path and go back in case something comes up.”
Ann loves her visits to the Grove. She likes the management, the staff and has a certain affinity for Brenden’s humour who greets her with a cheeky ‘Not you again!’ every time Ann checks in. The staff have helped Ann put her medication in order, sorted her computer problems and although they monitor and care for the guests at all times, they are never intrusive.
Ann is also a big fan of the day trips around Bournemouth. The Grove Hotel organises free weekly trips to local beauty spots and places of interest, including Swanage, the New Forest, Christchurch, Poole, Salisbury and Wimborne. Even though she has been living in Bournemouth for most of her life, Ann still discovers and learns new things with every journey.
The unique establishment also has a varied social activities programme. From visits to the hotel’s very own beach hut and in-house live music performances to garden parties and sporting activities, Ann always find something to do at The Grove.
The Grove Hotel is ideal for people who want to relax and spend time on their own, as well as for those who are seeking to make new friends. Communication is subtly encouraged between the guests, with the restaurant tables strategically placed so guests can speak to those sitting at other tables if they wish. During her visits, Ann started making friends with other guests, one of which was a lady from Wales. Ann, her cousin and her new friend have already booked the four-night Turkey and Tinsel Break 2018 and are looking forward to ‘spending a festive morning together wearing pyjamas’.
“I never heard anyone say, ‘I won’t be coming back’. They all plan their next stay. You can come alone and make friends on the way!”
Although Ann is happy going to The Grove on her own, there is a facility which enables visitors to book a companion. The service assigns visitors a volunteer who will come and spend time with them, so the visitors do not feel alone.
Ann’s relationship with the Grove and its staff has got even stronger with each visit. In 2017 she had her 78th birthday party at The Grove where she invited her local friends and celebrated with wine and afternoon tea. Ann’s message to those considering visiting The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth is:
“Go for it! It’s a hotel with cream on top! Unless you stay here you can’t imagine the camaraderie.”
The Grove Hotel offers holiday opportunities for both carers and patients. Just as heroes need to be saved sometimes, so do carers need to be taken care of sometimes.