After training as a nurse in Exeter, Helen Taverner spent many happy years working in the profession before family and business commitments caused a shift in her career.
Helen and her husband, Rob, founded Taverner’s Farm and opened Orange Elephant Ice Cream Parlour. Helen’s mum, Pat, moved to Devon after her husband passed away. Helen explains, “Mum has always been fiercely independent. She travelled to Australia twice a year after Dad passed away to see my brothers and their family. Moving to Devon, Mum made a new life for herself and was such a huge part of our lives, helping to bring up our children.”
Following one of Pat’s trips to Australia in 2019, Helen noticed that something wasn’t right. “We tentatively began the process of investigation and after several doctors’ appointments, Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This was an enormous mental blow to Mum.
“In September 2021, I realised that there were more physical challenges that Mum was dealing with. The rollercoaster of appointments and scans that followed was overwhelming.
“In November, I managed to take a short family holiday and while we were away, Mum was admitted to hospital. It was so traumatic. She was taken by ambulance and didn’t have any of us with her. Mum’s scan results showed that she had a bowel tumour. From then on, Mum needed daily care and support. My first meeting with Lynn from Hospiscare will stay with me forever. Everything I was going through felt like a whirlwind, but Lynn was kind and, above all, honest. That, for me, was the most powerful and helpful conversation during that time.
“I knew where we were heading. My years of nursing and knowledge of care, despite being a long time ago, had never left me. I decided it was time to bring Mum home to our farm and nurse her myself. The help and support from Hospiscare was overwhelming; I could call the nurses at any time and their words and advice were so valuable.
“I clearly remember talking to one Hospiscare nurse when Mum was in her final hours. She described what Mum was going through as climbing a mountain; pausing and taking a breath before her final resting place. The imagery helped me enormously and Mum and I sat and listened to music and imagined climbing Mount Snowdon, which she adored.
“I am so thankful to have been able to nurse Mum at our farm and that life was able to carry on around her for those last few weeks. It was the hardest thing that I have ever done, and one of the best.”