Supporting our local hospitals by creating Comfort Bags
What are Comfort bags?
They are handmade bags filled with donations of small toiletries and care items delivered to people who find themselves in hospital with no belongings. Started in Girlguiding Manchester West, this scheme has been hugely successful – by end of 2016 they had donated over 1000 Comfort Bags to their local hospital.
We have been approached by the Bereavement team at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust to see if Girlguiding Cumbria South could set up a similar comfort bag scheme in our county.
Why the bereavement team?
‘How people die remains in the memory of those who live on’
(Dame Cicely Saunders (founder of the Modern Hospice Movement).
“The Bereavement Nurse’s role is to develop a whole system bereavement pathway for expected and sudden deaths within our hospitals, and to ensure all UHMB staff follow best practice with regards to pre- and post- bereavement care and all patients and families are treated with dignity and respect.
The experience of bereavement can be affected by the way their loved one is cared for, with a poor care experience of their loved one leading to psychological problems for the family coping with their grief. It is vital therefore that we help create good memories as the last days and hours of life are so precious and will be remembered vividly by those witnessing the dying process.
The Bereavement Nurses work in collaboration with other colleagues e.g. hospital staff, Coroner, Coroners Officers, police, funeral directors, registrar’s, hospice’s and other voluntary and charitable agencies. We also reach out to the local community to provide bereavement support for community deaths.” Lindsay Pinch, Bereavement Nurse Specialist.
How does it work?
It’s quite a simple process, units ask parents/local residents etc. for donations of toiletries/care items, make handmade bags for them to go in and take them into the office. Or you could fundraise to buy the travel-sized toiletries (or even talk to your local friendly supermarket/health & beauty retailer to see if they will donate anything)
Items to include in the Comfort Bags:
A comfort bag containing small, travel-sized toiletries will allow families to freshen up whilst being at the hospital for long periods of time:
- Toothbrush and paste
- Hand soap
- Small packet of tissues
- A small Girlguiding card inside the Comfort Bag, so that the recipient knows where it has come from. You can ask each girl to write the card with the following message “Packed especially for you by a (name of unit) Rainbow/Brownie/Guide/Senior Section member”. Recipients have told us that they appreciate the hand-drawn ones.
- A bag to put them in: size of a 12×8 sponge bag with a draw cord; plain material is preferred.
Useful additional items that can be included:
Small packets of hand or face wipes, cotton buds, nail files etc.
- Sanitising hand gel
- Men’s shaving cream and razor (as given out on long haul flights)
- Eye masks
- Ear plugs
It is important to check the individual items and the contents of any bags donated, prior to distributing these to the hospital. Sometimes there will be items from hotels that have logos such as “Wash away your cares” or “Smile it’s a beautiful day”, which might not be appropriate.
Large items that you do not think are suitable to take in can be put out at local meetings for members to take for a donation. That money can then be used to purchase items you are short of.
Where you can drop off your comfort bags
Comfort bags can be dropped off at the General Office at either Furness General or Westmorland General Hospitals.
There is a possibility that one of Lindsay’s team could pick up the bags from you if you don’t live near to one of the hospitals. Please contact her to arrange.
Our contact is Lindsay Pinch, Bereavement Nurse Specialist, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Tel: 01524 516071
She has a team of three people who cover the area, and has offered to come along to unit meetings to talk about their work, and how comfort bags could help families visiting their loved ones.
She is happy to set up donation boxes in the unit in both hospitals as well for families/the public to donate items for us to put into bags. We would just need to collect the donations every so often.
They would be grateful for any help we can give them, and value comfort bags as a practical way to support families during a difficult time.
As well as being a great community project, this could be ideal for Senior Section members doing their Queen’s Guide Award/Young Leader Qual. or Leaders in Training doing their Leadership Qual. to coordinate the bags in their district/division.
Some pictures of what’s in bags and the cards to go with them