Tools available to encourage discussions about end-of-life care

We thank Ms Candice Yeo, Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng and Mr Cheng Choon Fei for their letters on end-of-life planning (Drive home importance of advance care planning; Speaking openly will help families avoid disputes; and Remove some of the barriers to end-of-life planning, all July 16).

We agree that conversations surrounding end-of-life matters are becoming increasingly important as our society ages.

However, cultural and social barriers often make it difficult for family members to start such conversations.

To encourage discussions on palliative care and end-of-life matters, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has partnered the Singapore Hospice Council (SHC) for a three-year public education campaign called Live Well. Leave Well.

An important part of end-of-life planning is advance care planning (ACP), which allows individuals to express their future care preferences and plan ahead, in the event that they are seriously ill and unable to make their own decisions.

These conversations focus on the individual's personal values, beliefs and goals for care which may affect his future care preferences.

We encourage Singaporeans to start ACP discussions earlier when they are healthier, as it empowers them to choose how they would like to be cared for, even in their final days.

Moreover, making an ACP reduces the uncertainty, stress and anxiety for our loved ones in difficult times when they have to make decisions on our behalf.

MOH has worked with the Agency for Integrated Care and SHC to develop conversation and community-engagement tools to help care-providers and individuals initiate these ACP discussions.

We also encourage Singaporeans to make use of ACP touchpoints in the community, such as selected senior activity centres and polyclinics to facilitate such discussions (for details, visit www.livingmatters.sg/ACP-Directory/). We are also in the process of placing resources related to end-of-life information and services from various sources, including ACP, into a single digital portal for convenience.

About 4,500 ACPs were completed last year, more than double the number in 2015.

The MOH will continue to work with our partners to encourage conversations on end-of-life care.

Titus Lee

Director, Aged Care Services

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2019, with the headline 'Tools available to encourage discussions about end-of-life care'. Print Edition | Subscribe