Welfare

‘Ability to give total care to the terminally ill motivates me’

Jul 2008    

PART 11: THE SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTRY OF THE METHODIST WELFARE SERVICES

The newly restructured Agape Methodist Hospice engaged Ms Moira Tan as its first homecare nurse supervisor last year.

MWS

‘MADAM Leong (not her real name), lives with her fourth daughter in a one-room rental flat. When I read the referral form from the hospital I found out that she was twice divorced and I wondered about her family background. I contacted her family members and discovered that Madam Leong, 68, married twice in the hope of providing a better life for her family.

From her first marriage she had four children but as her husband had an extramarital affair, they always quarelled. One day, Madam Leong’s husband drove their youngest daughter and her out of their home. As Madam Leong had no formal training to qualify for an office job, she worked as a cleaner, laundry woman and hawker’s assistant to make ends meet. Each time she went to work, she would take her then four-year-old daughter with her as she had nobody to look after the child. Whenever she tried to see her other children she was turned away by her ex-husband. Eventually, the family moved away and she lost total contact with them Fifteen years after her divorce, Madam Leong married someone she met at work. But it turned out that the man was abusive and also had an extramarital affair. Once he threatened to kill Madam Leong and her daughter and in fear, she went to make a police report and subsequently, she applied to the Courts for a Personal Protection Order for the both of them. When her story was published in the newspapers a few years ago, her elder three children realised that she was still alive and contacted her. The happy reunion was not to last, however, as she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, followed by lung cancer recently. She is expected to live no more than six months. The cancer has now spread to the bones and other parts of the body. What saddens me is that her second daughter, who pays for all her medical treatment and daily expenses, is also battling cancer.

Madam Leong is one of 23 terminally ill patients I have been visiting in the last three months.

I joined Agape Methodist Home (AMH) in October 2007 to provide free Home Palliative Care services to people who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. Following a restructuring exercise to upgrade our services, AMH re-started its service for home-bound patients in February this year. Most of the patients referred to us are expected to live approximately four months to a year. The current patients range from 38 to 85 years of age. All suffer from cancer.

I am heartened that our services are offered to everyone regardless of age, race, religious affiliation and financial status. Most of the patients that I am seeing are from the lower income group.

On the average, I visit three patients a day. I enjoy visiting the patients at home as I am able to really provide “hospice at home” service. The ability to give “total care”, meaning giving support to both patients and their families or caregivers – be it physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically – motivates me to give of my best.

My work poses great challenges, such as when a patient experiences difficulty in pain control because of a growing tumour or when a patient has a suicidal tendency and needs to be managed by a team comprising a doctor, nurse and social worker. It is challenging to provide total care to the patients at present, especially because of our lack of manpower.

Since February, seven of my patients have passed on ahead of time even though they were expected to live for more than four months. I was quite upset when I found out they passed away less than a month after they were referred to AMH as I was just getting to know them and their care needs. I felt that I had not been able to provide the care and comfort that they had truly needed in their last days.

The other challenge is being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I put my mobile phone right next to me when I go to bed every night.

In spite of all this, I would never think of doing anything else. I am a “people person” not used to desk-bound work. The appreciative smiles and appreciation I receive from the patients, their families and caregivers keep me going. It is satisfying to be able to help alleviate patients’ pain and to support the families and caregivers emotionally so that they can cope with caring for their loved ones at home and their eventual passing on.

My work has made me realise that palliative home care indeed plays an important role to people suffering from life-threatening illness who want to be cared for at home.

I try my best to follow what is written in Acts 20:35, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Dealing with my patients has helped me realise how important it is to have good health and to live life fully and purposefully. I am sure there are many patients who need help and even though we can only reach out to a small number, through God’s grace and love, we can still do our small part, the best way we can.’

Agape Methodist Hospice is a fully-owned outreach of the Methodist Welfare Services. It provides:

• Home medical and nursing support for symptom control so that patients are able to experience comfort and peace at the final stages of their life.

• Emotional and spiritual support through befriending. There may come a time when there is no longer any cure available and the patients and their families have to face the reality of death. They may need caregivers who will sit and pray with them through their pain and suffering and provide social, emotional and spiritual support.

• Loan of equipment, such as hospital beds, commodes, oxygen concentrators and wheelchairs.

• Talks and training courses for volunteers and family caregivers.

Address: 70 Barker Road, #05-03 Singapore 309936
Tel: 6478-4766, Fax: 6478-4765

The MWS needs your support to continue to assist the elderly and terminally ill like Madam Leong.

In the financial year ended March 31, 2007, some 5,500 at-risk children and youth, families, frail elderly, terminally ill and destitute persons were served monthly by the MWS.

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