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For over seven years, Brigette Flye has been Marie Curie’s Support Line Team Leader. She talked to us about how Marie Curie’s Support Line is there for people with any terminal illness and what it’s like to work there. In 2023, Support Line received almost 1,000 enquiries from people in Scotland.

How does Marie Curie’s Support Line help people?

The Support Line is here to provide information, signposting, and emotional support to anybody living with a terminal condition or supporting somebody who is.

Many of our callers just need a safe space to share what can be challenging times or sometimes difficult family dynamics. When we’re an unpaid carer and trying to juggle life, family relationships, hobbies, and care, it can be a bit of a roller coaster. We often find that talking to a stranger, somebody who’s not emotionally invested, is easier because we don’t have to be polite and say everything’s fine when it’s not.

And whilst we don’t have a magic wand to solve it, sharing it and putting it out in the ether can take a huge weight off somebody’s shoulders. Knowing they’re not the only person that’s felt this way can be really reassuring.

We can provide information and signposting on almost anything and everything. So basics on how to access care and support, including from Marie Curie nursing services, to emotional support on how to talk to family, friends, or children about the stage of the illness.

We can run through advanced care planning topics with people, encouraging them to write Wills, write care plans, and think about what is important to them as end-of-life approaches. But to also think about what they want to leave behind—sorting out their social media or funeral planning.

Many callers facing end-of-life find it reassuring to have a chat with our Support Line nurse. She can share her experience and knowledge and discuss things like pain management, alleviating worries and fears that people have around nutrition and hydration, and perhaps spotting signs that end-of-life is coming, and how they might prepare for that.

We have Energy Support Officers who can specifically help people with any worries about energy bills and the fuel crisis. They can give expert information on things like supplier-specific support, grants, and energy efficiency updates.

People can contact us as often as they need to. Some calls can be quite transactional. Other callers can be on the phone with us for 45 minutes to an hour. Even though they may call with a basic question, things will unravel, and they’ll start to share more, and emotions may come to the surface.

We also support people who have been bereaved as a result of a terminal illness. We can offer emotional support via the Support Line or our Bereavement Support Service, matching people with a trained volunteer and offering up to six sessions of bereavement support.

What would you say to someone who is considering calling Marie Curie’s Support Line?

Sometimes callers will tell us they’ve been carrying around a card with our number in their wallet for six or twelve months before they decide to call.

I would encourage people to reach out, and we’ll look to see how we can help you. We wouldn’t turn anyone away. If somebody calls us with something that we’re not the best place for, we will know how to signpost them to the most appropriate charity or organisation.

I think a lot of callers are shocked about how much we do know, how much we can share, and the suggestions that we have.

How does your team manage the emotional impact of their job?

My team has a really tough job. They could take two or three quite emotionally charged calls back-to-back. But we are very well supported. So if they’ve had a call that has triggered them, they’re always encouraged to reach out to a colleague or line manager to chat through their feelings and debrief. The team regularly practices self-care. They also have regular clinical supervision, access to a 24/7 employee assistance programme, team meetings, and training. We’ve got lots of safe spaces for them to share anything they need to offload because I think to support other people, we need to be supporting ourselves.

What would you like to say to any of Scullion LAW’s clients who choose to include a gift in their Will to Marie Curie?

A huge, huge thank you! The Support Line is purely funded by the donations we raise, so we wouldn’t be here to support anybody without all the wonderful people that donate to us, whether it’s through a fundraising activity or a gift in their Will.

How to contact Marie Curie’s Support Line:

Marie Curie’s Support Line provides practical information and support over the phone and via webchat on all aspects of life with terminal illness, dying and bereavement.

Call free on 0800 090 2309

Open 8 am – 6 pm Monday to Friday, and 11 am – 5 pm on Saturdays.

*Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. Your call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.

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