Whilst I sit chilling on the comfy chair with my orange juice, chocolate digestives, duvet and Saturday afternoon films I suddenly feel completely and utterly relaxed for the first time in months. My body aches as it begins to unwind and my head is suddenly not worrying about jobs I need to do next or when it's time to cook the dinner. I hear you thinking well how can that be Possible for a parent with a child with special needs. Well I will tell you it is possible thanks to one amazing place called charlton farm.
Charlton farm is a beautiful children's hospice one of 3 run by the children's hospice south west charity. Charlton farm in set in idyllic countryside just outside the centre of the very busy city bristol. A haven where families like us can come for respite care. All care is handed over to the wonderful hospice carers so that parents can relax and unwind from the day to day stresses of having a child with special needs. The children are entertained with endless activities. A jacuzzi pool with lights and music, a soft play area with a massive ball pool, a games room, music room, messy room, teenagers room and a large lounge to chill out with toys, a fish tank and a large tv. Children are taken out on trips or walks up the drive to see the animals. A large outside area provides places to play in the sand or swing on the specially adapted wheelchair swings or supportive swings for those more able or just simply a place to ride around on one of the special bikes taking in the beautiful array of flowers and greenery in the beautifully thought out areas providing space to chill or to explore. A wonderful willow tunnel just big enough for children in wheelchairs to enjoy walking through too. There are siblings workers to help care for siblings of those being cared for to allow parents more of a break at times throughout their stay.
Through out the day amazing meals are provided for everyone. A chance for parents to enjoy a rare moment of eating a hot meal whilst actually eating at the same time as their children. Carers feed the children allowing for the special moments to be had without the stress of feeding time. There are always delicious cakes to tuck into whenever you feel you need a treat. A lovely chance to enjoy a hot mug of tea aswell without interruptions.
The hospice care provides family's with the chance to be just that, families. It takes away the stress of everyday routines, appointments, medicine administration, changing pads, battling with sleep, feeding and household chores and allows families to spend the special times together. Parents can have as much or as little time with their children as they like. Allowing for parents to have cuddles or play with their children or to simply just unwind on their own.
We have been coming to the hospice since Ethan was 9 months old. We get 14 nights to use a year. Every stay is incredibly special for us. It allows me to complete down time I need and is the only place I can truly relax and switch off. I am able to chill and get full nights sleep which is a rarity at home. I can also go for trips to cribbs causeway for some child free shopping all whilst knowing my precious boy is having an amazing time and being looked after so well.
But we must also remember that the hospice not only provides respite care for families but it also provides the very important end of life care that is needed by so many. The hospice allows for every poorly children who are near to the end of their precious lives to come and spend their last moments together as a family. This could be days weeks or months but it is important that the family can spend those moments together. The hospice has a special feel to it and some times children fully recover when they are thought not to. But for those who don't then the hospice provides the support for the whole family with a special starborn chapel room for the child to be at peace. The hospice also helps with funeral arrangements and afterlife care for the whole family.
There are chances to meet other families who are in the same situation. We have made many friends for life here. Families who are incredibly strong and who all face different challenges every day. Friends who truly understand what we go through every day. Without our care up here we wouldn't have made these friends and built up a support network for life. Being here also provides it's challenges showing you how fortunate you are. Some children are very poorly and it's heartbreaking to watch. Every time I am greatful for our situation and continually think of those who are suffering. The hospice provides more care and support than anyone will ever know.
The atmosphere up here is not sad it is full of love and happiness. Each child is catered for with the same level of love and adoration. Each child's needs are specially met and each child's wishes are met for their stay to achieve full happiness. Ethan is in his element when he's here. He is completely entertained from waking until bedtime (where he sleeps all night!!) we both come away fully renewed but also thankful that we're doing ok and Ethan is so well. We treasure every moment we have together and our thoughts stay with those who aren't doing so well. Truly a piece of heaven here on earth.