Douglas House: A ‘respice’ for young people

      It is impossible to describe Douglas House, a ‘respice’ for adolescents and young adults, without first describing Helen House. Helen House, the world's first children's hospice, opened in Oxford in 1982. During the course of 21 years, it has provided respite care and terminal care to children with progressive life-limiting illnesses and support to their families before and after the death of their children. The model both in architecture and ethos is home. The children and their families are considered to be the experts in care, each one being unique. While their own home is the ideal centre of care for a child, we have to accept that the extended family, with the support it once offered, has almost ceased to exist in our culture, and Helen House and other children's hospices try to offer an occasional alternative. Caring for a very sick child is physically exhausting, but the grief inherent in the knowledge that a child will die is perhaps the most emotionally and spiritually exhausting parental experience known to humankind. Friendship and practical help are central to the ethos of Helen House, as is the acceptance that we do not have the answers to the big questions. Nor can we give back to the families the thing they want above all else—their children alive and well.
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