New daycare centre for the terminally ill officially opens

Above: Mr Peter Taye with his wife and caretaker Betty at Dover Park Hospice yesterday. He joins the daycare service at the hospice about thrice a week, giving his wife time to pursue her hobbies and go out with her friends. Left: Patients, a staff m
Mr Peter Taye with his wife and caretaker Betty at Dover Park Hospice yesterday. He joins the daycare service at the hospice about thrice a week, giving his wife time to pursue her hobbies and go out with her friends.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Above: Mr Peter Taye with his wife and caretaker Betty at Dover Park Hospice yesterday. He joins the daycare service at the hospice about thrice a week, giving his wife time to pursue her hobbies and go out with her friends. Left: Patients, a staff m
Patients, a staff member and a volunteer playing games at the daycare centre in the hospice yesterday. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Mr Peter Taye and his wife Betty about a decade ago, years before he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BETTY TAYE
Mr Peter Taye and his wife Betty about a decade ago, years before he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BETTY TAYE

Service by Dover Park Hospice aims to reach 30 patients by 2021

When Mr Peter Taye was diagnosed with prostate cancer about three years ago, he was very upset.

"I wanted to end my life... I didn't believe it. I kept asking, why did it have to happen to me?" said the 78-year-old yesterday.

But Mr Taye clung on to life with his wife by his side. She constantly encourages him to try new things, one of which was to join Dover Park Day Care - a palliative daycare service for patients with terminal illnesses - about five months ago.

The daycare centre, which began operations in Dover Park Hospice in April, was officially opened yesterday. It is one of just three palliative daycare services listed by the Singapore Hospice Council.

Operating on weekdays from 9am to 5pm, the daycare service is free. The hospice provides free transport and meals for its patients.

Mr Timothy Liu, chief executive of Dover Park Hospice, which runs the daycare centre, said the service is funded by the Ministry of Health and the hospice. The latter funds the daycare centre through donations.

Mr Liu said: "Daycare is an important aspect of palliative care and it is subsidised to ensure it is affordable to patients who will benefit from it."

Located in Novena, the centre runs on a referral basis for patients who have been diagnosed with advanced illnesses, are functionally able to tolerate a transfer to daycare, and have care needs that can be met in a hospice daycare centre.

The centre currently takes up to 10 patients a day but there are plans to expand its services to 30 patients by 2021.

Dover Park Hospice's medical director Ong Wah Ying said palliative daycare centres differ from other eldercare centres as the therapists are trained to look out for the psycho-emotional well-being of patients with palliative care needs.

Therapy sessions are used to assess and support patients, who can also call a hotline for support after office hours.

 
 
 

The daycare centre also provides caregivers with an alternative if they need some time off for themselves or a respite from their duties.

And these duties as a caregiver are not easy. Mr Taye's wife, 70-year-old Betty, had to clean his bedsores and help him apply medication daily.

The couple have been married for more than 40 years and have a 49-year-old son. Mrs Taye quit her job as a kindergarten teacher to care for him and ended up staying at home most of the time.

She would also worry about him every time she had to leave the house to get groceries.

But all that has changed since Mr Taye, who used to work in manufacturing, joined the daycare centre, which he goes to around thrice a week.

Although she never considered caring for her husband a burden, Mrs Taye said she now has more time to pursue her own hobbies and go out with her friends. "It's a relief for me, I don't have to worry because there's someone here," she said.

Mr Taye's life has brightened considerably as well. The former volunteer at an old folks' home said: "I used to see old people sitting at a table staring at a wall, and I'd think that if that's daycare, there's no need for me to come here.

"But when I came and saw all the services they have here, how different it is, it really changed my outlook... I feel the warmth here."

Patients at the daycare centre can take part in volunteer-led activities such as mahjong, card games and gardening, as well as therapist-led activities such as art and music therapy, and physiotherapy.

Dover Park Hospice's chairman Robert Chew said the activities are designed to help patients live their lives to the fullest.

"This will help them have a sense of being valued and restore dignity to their lives," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'New daycare centre for the terminally ill officially opens'. Print Edition | Subscribe