Frequently asked questions

We understand that dealing with a life-limiting illness can be stressful and you may have a number of questions about Mary Potter Hospice and the care we provide.

Please contact us if you have any further questions and we will be happy to help.

What is the Hospice philosophy of care?
Mary Potter Hospice was founded on the vision of free-of-charge hospice care for anyone who needs it, regardless of financial situation, religion or ethnicity. The Hospice has never wavered in this vision.

We have a holistic philosophy of care so look after the whole person – their physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs. We also support patients’ families or whānau in their bereavement.

How easy is it to access Mary Potter Hospice services?
Mary Potter Hospice services are free-of-charge for people living in Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti, and there are no waiting lists.

We have Community Teams in Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti, and an Inpatient Unit in Newtown. We also offer a Day Hospice services for our patients in Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti.

How do you get referred to Mary Potter Hospice?
People who have an illness where a cure is not possible and death can be reasonably expected within a year can be referred to Mary Potter Hospice. Referrals are accepted from GPs, Primary Health Organisations and specialist medical practitioners. Patients are assessed to establish how complex their palliative care needs are, and whether hospice care is appropriate.

In some cases people will not need the intensive care Mary Potter Hospice provides and can be cared for by their GP, district nurse and carer at home or in aged residential care. The patient and their family must be informed of the nature of the palliative care offered by the Hospice and agree to the referral. Please visit our referrals page for more information.

When is the right time to use Hospice services?
The best time for referral is when diagnosis of a terminal illness is made. Early referral is much more effective than late referral. The decision to use Hospice services is made between the patient, their family or whānau and carers.

What kind of illnesses do people have at Mary Potter Hospice?
About 70% of Mary Potter Hospice patients have cancer, but we can care for any person with a limited life expectancy from such causes as motor neurone disease, heart or other organ failure, AIDS and other life-limiting illnesses.

How many patients does Mary Potter Hospice care for?
On average, we care for around 870 people each year. We look after between 250 to 290 people at any one time, mostly in their own home, in aged residential care or in the Inpatient Unit.

What happens if I go into Hospice care?
Patients are seen first by a Palliative Care Coordinator, a senior nurse with specialist skills in palliative care. A plan of care is developed and patients are seen by other members of the multidisciplinary Mary Potter Hospice team – that could be a physiotherapist, massage therapist, doctor, occupational therapist, spiritual carer, social worker or counsellor – to ensure that the care given is appropriate for each individual and their family or whānau. Please visit our services page for more information.

Can I be cared for by Mary Potter Hospice at home?
Most people using Mary Potter Hospice’s services prefer to stay at home. We will do everything we can to support patients and their whānau to stay in the comfort of their own home.

Our nurses meet with patients and families or whānau to discuss their needs and the care services available. Hospice staff work closely with GPs, Primary Health Organisations and specialist medical practitioners, and they communicate continuously with the multidisciplinary team at Mary Potter Hospice to make sure patients are well supported and symptoms can be managed at home.

If this proves difficult, patients may benefit from some time at our specialist Inpatient Unit in Newtown for respite care, symptom management or end-of-life care. Please visit our care at home page for more information.

Can I stay at the Inpatient Unit until I die?
A few patients will stay at the Inpatient Unit to receive compassionate end-of-life care. If the physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs of an individual are such that they require intensive input from Mary Potter Hospice staff, then patients can stay at the Inpatient Unit until they die.

Can you get rid of the pain and help my manage symptoms?
Modern medicines and medical techniques, as well as our specialist knowledge, mean that pain can be controlled in almost all patients. For a few where managing the pain is particularly difficult we call in chronic pain specialists from Wellington Hospital.

Mary Potter nurses work with the patient’s GP, District Nurses, and our Hospice team to manage symptoms at home. If this proves difficult, patients are brought into the Inpatient Unit for symptom management.

Some acronyms you may come across during your care:
ACP – Advance Care Planning
AHP – Allied Health Professional
ARC – Aged Residential Care
CCDHB – Capital Coast District Health Board
CHS – Community Health Services
CNS – Clinical Nurse Specialist
DHB – District Health Board
DN – District Nurse
EOLC – End of Life Care
H@H – Hospice @ Home
HCA – Health Care Assistant
HO – House Officer
IPU – Inpatient Unit
LDOL –  Last Days of Life
MO – Medical Officer
MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
NP – Nurse Practitioner
PCC – Palliative Care Coordinator
PCP – Palliative Care Plan
RN – Registered Nurse
SMO – Senior Medical Officer
SPC – Specialist Palliative Care

What happens if my family or whānau and I don’t agree about my plan of care?
The plan of care is developed after discussion with the patient and family or whānau. The aim of our care is to have it centred on the individual needs and wishes of the person who is ill, and is written in consultation with all those involved. The plan of care can change as needs change. Information will always be available to the patient and their family or whānau.

How is Mary Potter Hospice funded?
It costs around $14 million to run the Hospice each year. The Government provides about half of our funding and we have to fundraise for the remainder to keep Hospice services free.

How many staff work for Mary Potter Hospice?
We have around 120 staff members. We employ nurses, doctors, social workers, counsellors, spiritual carers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, health care assistants, administration staff, retail assistants, volunteer coordinators, educators and fundraisers. View our vacancies page.

I want to give back to Mary Potter Hospice to say thank you for the care of my loved one. What can I do?
They are many practical ways that you can help the Hospice. The most effective way to support the Hospice is by making a regular donation. You can also leave a gift in your Will, donate goods to our Hospice shops or volunteer with us. Learn more about supporting Mary Potter Hospice.

How many volunteers support Mary Potter Hospice and how do they help?
Over 300 volunteers support Hospice operations in roles such as serving meals, transporting patients and helping with administration. There are over 200 volunteers working in our eight Hospice shops. Over 1000 volunteers also help with the Hospice’s major events such as the annual Mary Potter Hospice Street Appeal and Hospice Strawberry Festival.

We are very grateful for the support we receive from our volunteers in the community as their support is vital to the work we do. View our volunteering page for more information.

Where are your Hospice shops located?
There are eight Mary Potter Hospice shops located at Cuba Street, Karori, Miramar, Newlands, Kāpiti, Porirua, Tawa and Thorndon. We also have an online Trade Me store. Find your local Hospice shop.

Who was Mary Potter?
The Venerable Mary Potter was an English nun who lived from 1847 to 1913. She suffered ill health all her life which gave her a great sense of compassion for the terminally ill. She had a vision of a life of prayer and ministry to the sick and dying so she founded the Little Company of Mary. One of her last acts before she died was to give approval for the Order to go to New Zealand. The Little Company of Mary arrived in Christchurch in 1914.

When did Mary Potter Hospice come about?
The nuns of the Little Company of Mary were based in Calvary Hospital in Newtown, and gifted Mary Potter Hospice to a Trust in 1979 to serve the people of Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti. Mary Potter Hospice was the first hospice in New Zealand.

What is the modern hospice movement?
The modern hospice movement was founded in the 1950s by Dame Cicely Saunders. She developed a philosophy of care of the dying using specialist palliatives care principles. She founded the first purpose built hospice, St Christopher’s in North London.

Mary Potter Hospice incorporates the heritage and values of both the Venerable Mary Potter and Dame Cicely Saunders.