Never too early: NTU undergraduates start campaign to advocate end-of-life planning

(From left) Ms Charlotte Chong, Ms Phyllis Lee, Ms Raelynn Tan and Ms Emily Gouw. PHOTO: LIVING WISHES

SINGAPORE - Over eight in 10 adults have not discussed with their aged parents what kind of care would they want in the event of serious illness.

This is what four Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates found from their survey of 105 Singapore residents aged between 35 and 59.

The team also found that almost 60 per cent of the respondents do not know what their parents want for their end-of-life care. And 51 per cent do not know about advance care planning, which is to plan for one's future health and care preferences.

"Most people only considered or discussed advance care planning when faced with a serious illness although such discussions should be done early, when we're still healthy and have the mental capacity to consider and express our personal wishes and values," says Ms Charlotte Chong, 22, from the NTU team.

This led Ms Chong and her team mates Emily Gouw, 22, Raelynn Tan, 22, and Phyllis Lee, 24, to come up with a campaign to raise awareness and encourage conversations about advance care planning.

The campaign, Living Wishes, hopes to drive home the importance of planning for end-of-life care to adults aged between 35 and 59. It aims to equip their target audience with the skills to broach the topic with their parents.

Mr Tan Kwang Cheak, chief executive of the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), says in a press release: "It is always good for people to start thinking about advance care planning and to discuss their preferences with their family members while they are well and healthy."

Living Wishes is supported by the agency, the Ang Chin Moh Foundation and the National Youth Council's Young ChangeMakers Grant.

The campaign seeks to remind individuals about the importance of their parents, by encouraging people to reflect on their relationships. It also hopes to get people to find out more about the unspoken wishes of their loved ones.

Says Ms Chong: "Life is unpredictable. Regardless of our age, we never know when a medical emergency might happen to us or our loved ones. It is important to plan in advance to be better prepared for such situations before we are unable to speak for ourselves."

A campaign booth was set up at Tampines Regional Library from Dec 17 to Tuesday (Dec 28), for the public to learn more about advance care planning. They could also pen down wishes for their parents and hang them up on a Christmas tree.

In February next year, Living Wishes will launch advance care planning conversation starter kits, which each features a game, conversation cards and other resources. Currently, the NTU team plans to produce 100 kits, which will be given out for free. They may produce more kits if there is a higher demand for them.

A campaign booth was set up at Tampines Regional Library for the public to learn more about advance care planning. PHOTO: LIVING WISHES

The NTU team, who are from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, developed the campaign as their final-year project.

As part of the campaign, there is also a video on "How well do we know our parents' end-of-life wishes?", posted on its website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The public could also pen down wishes for their parents and hang them up on a Christmas tree. PHOTO: LIVING WISHES

It features a daughter attempting to guess her mother's care preferences. The video stresses the importance of understanding one's parents in order to make informed decisions on their behalf during unexpected medical situations.

Ms Lillian Tan, 49, who participated in the video, says, "It's a continuous journey to learn about my mum. It's not only about what I do not know, but also about me accepting that she doesn't like certain ways of doing things."

For instance, Ms Tan, a finance senior director, would want her mother to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if her heart stopped in the last stages of a terminal illness. However, her mother would prefer not to.

 Go to for more information on end-of-life planning. 

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