MARRIED for 50 years, it was the Hospice at Home nurses that kept Jean and her husband together in Noel's last few days.

Jean Charlton was able to 'make the journey' with Noel as his condition deteriorated, with the nurses offering her reassurance and the confidence to care for her partner.

"The Hospice at Home nurses made a tremendous difference to my being able to look after my husband at home, which we both wanted," Jean, who lives in Rigmaden, near Kirkby Lonsdale, said. "They made it so much easier for us to look after him - they gave us lots of support, lots of advice."

Noel, who Jean said was 'loved and respected' by many, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in the December of last year - that, combined with his longer term fatigue syndrome, meant that in the last ten days of his life, he needed additional care at home.

"We were aware that he wouldn't last very much longer and that's when the nurses were very important," Jean said, remembering the last two weeks she shared with Noel. "They were very reassuring, very competent - we felt we had a lot of trust in them. They were very gentle as well so that my husband quite accepted them."

Jean highlighted that Noel's care had been a collaborative effort and praised all that were involved, including private personal assistance from Sedbergh, who she said were 'wonderful'.

Importantly, even when the nurses were not physically there, Jean said that they still influenced her a lot in how she was coping.

"I felt so supported by them. There was a hidden thing that I couldn't put my finger on - I was very tired and some of my energy came from how they'd been with us," she said.

This was particularly important the night before Noel died - Jean, 73, was awake almost all night, keeping a 'sort of vigil'.

"So every time he stirred, I got up and held his hand and talked to him," she said. "Had he been in hospital I wouldn't have been able to do that. I kept on reassuring him that we were in it together. You and me together sort of thing - we're one.

"That night I was awake, I was very grateful for. I was really glad it happened in a lot of ways - I was able to do that because the nurses could have been called upon if I needed them."

The night Noel died, at 1.30am on February 27 this year, a nurse was there and offered her essential support.

"They have that skill," Jean said. "So much sympathy and warmth and care comes from them - they're very reassuring and make it seem a natural process. They couldn't have been better."