Welfare

Easing the end of life

Jul 2012    

HOW HOSPICE HELPS

“Hospice care helps patients prepare for the eventuality of death, and a good and comfortable one too. But it also benefits caregivers as it helps them cope better.”

WHEN ONE IS TOLD that he or she has only three months left to live, it does not mean that those three months should be lived out in fear, pain and misery.

With eight hospice care services to cater to various needs and preferences (day care centres, inpatient setting or in their own homes), Singapore has no lack of resources for people suffering from advanced illnesses to live out their remaining days with dignity and comfort. Hospice care is not just about providing medical or nursing care to the patients. According to the Singapore Hospice Council (SHC) definition, hospice care “emphasises the importance of quality of life … by providing relief of pain or other distressing symptoms, as well as ensuring emotional, spiritual and practical support for the patient and family”.

Choosing to die at home
Agape Methodist Hospice (AMH Homecare), a community outreach of Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) and a SHC member organisation, provides a homecare service to patients with advanced illnesses, regardless of their race, religion and age.

With a full team consisting of a doctor, three nurses and one medical social worker (MSW), and supported by MWS’ executive management, AMH Homecare is on-call 24 hours a day. Its mission is to serve patients so that they will be able to live their last days to the full.

According to Ms Moira Tan, AMH’s Nurse Manager, respecting the dying patient’s wishes is important, especially regarding their preferences on how they want to be cared for. “AMH Homecare is suitable for those who want to die in the comforts of their own homes,” she added.

Moreover, with a medical social worker on the team as well as engagement of its core group of many volunteers, AMH Homecare is able to provide holistic care to patients and their families. e clinical team offers pain management and symptom control treatment at home, and together with the medical social worker and volunteers, address psycho-emotional and spiritual needs as well.

Ms Edlin Hu, AMH’s medical social worker, also works closely with the patients and their families to help them with financial issues. She said: “I liaise with hospitals’ medical social workers and find out more about the family’s situation. I will then link them up with various community resources for financial assistance, and provide general counselling services to help them cope better.”

AMH Homecare, like other hospice homecare services in Singapore, offers services for free by fully absorbing homecare service charges after any external subsidy. is is an attractive option for financially-strapped families to be rendered fully subsidised care at home, as such services can cost up to $200 a day at an inpatient hospice.

Focus on befriender care
While several hospice services offer similar benefits, AMH Homecare is the only Christian hospice homecare provider in Singapore apart from other Catholic-run services. Ms Tan shared that many Christians have requested for AMH Homecare to provide for their loved ones with advanced illnesses.

She said: “As nurses, we also try to meet spiritual needs by praying and ministering to the patients. Moreover, AMH Homecare has a regular pool of volunteers, also known as befrienders, who are ‘attached’ to each patient, and this has been a distinguishing feature of AMH for its patients.”

Ms Tan further explained that volunteers are provided as part of the AMH Homecare model, unless patients specifically request not to have any. She added that rather than have volunteers getting involved in fund-raising activities, AMH Homecare’s befrienders focus on building relationships with the patients and their family.

Caring with a Christian perspective

At AMH Homecare, the befrienders are given basic caregiving training by the nursing team. Ms Tan shared: “Our volunteers are largely Christians. They will pray for the patients and their families too. Very often, they run errands like sending patients to medical appointments and buying their favourite food.”

Ms Ang Lay Keow from Faith Methodist Church had requested for AMH Homecare to care for her bedridden father, who suffers from a multitude of illnesses. “I first got to know about AMH Homecare almost five years ago when my brother suffered from end-stage cancer. I was very impressed with the care shown to him then, so I decided to engage their services again,” she said.

And she was not disappointed. She recalled Dr Benjamin Tan, AMH’s Resident Doctor, who once made a visit without a nurse, readily offering his help to change her father’s catheter tube. “He even spotted and treated a fungal infection,” she added.

As Ms Ang’s father is a Christian, Ms Tan would try to encourage him from a Christian perspective. Ms Ang saw the positive impact: “Whenever he was lucid, I’d question if he knew where he was going after he dies, and he’d proclaim, ‘Yes, heaven!’ And he even said that he felt no fear at all.”

Having witnessed the difference good hospice care can make to patients’ lives, Ms Ang is now a strong proponent of end-of-life care. “Hospice care helps patients prepare for the eventuality of death, and a good and comfortable one too. But it also benefits caregivers as it helps them cope better,” she said.

If you would like to engage or find out more about AMH Homecare and its services, please contact the Administrator at 6478-4725 or admin@amh.mws.org.sg

Michelle Tan is the Senior Executive (Communications) of Methodist Welfare Services.

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