Vital to talk about death and dying: President Halimah

Cancer patient Mary Tang with President Halimah Yacob and Dover Park Hospice medical director Ong Wah Ying. The support of hospice staff, volunteers and fellow residents helped Madam Tang come to terms with her mother's death early last month.
Cancer patient Mary Tang with President Halimah Yacob and Dover Park Hospice medical director Ong Wah Ying. The support of hospice staff, volunteers and fellow residents helped Madam Tang come to terms with her mother's death early last month.ST PHOTO: REI KUROHI

While conversations about death and dying may be difficult or culturally taboo, it is important to have them.

These conversations can help caregivers understand their patients' desires for the last days of their lives, said President Halimah Yacob on the sidelines of a visit to Dover Park Hospice in Novena yesterday.

"People prefer to be among their loved ones. Only when that is not possible do they come to in-patient services like Dover Park Hospice," Madam Halimah said after a tour of the facilities, where she met employees and several terminally ill residents with their family members.

The visit was part of her community engagement efforts with elderly people.

Dover Park Hospice offers both in-patient and home-based hospice care services, and has served more than 12,000 patients and their families since it opened in 1992.

It is Singapore's first purpose-built hospice and a beneficiary of the President's Challenge, an annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign.

Madam Halimah noted the positive feedback she had received from residents and their families of the hospice's services and staff.

"It is important to ensure that we continue to give strong support for affordable, accessible and good quality palliative care so that people can die in dignity," she said.

TALKING ABOUT ANYTHING

In the hospice, everyone is sick, so we can talk about anything. When talking to family, we don't want them to worry, so there are things we wouldn't talk to them about.

MADAM MARY TANG, who has been at Dover Park Hospice for three months.

During the visit, Madam Halimah met Madam Mary Tang, a cancer patient who has been a resident at Dover Park Hospice for three months.

The 62-year-old showed Madam Halimah a photo album, which included photographs of her recent visit to Gardens By the Bay.

She said residents would go on short trips with volunteers every Thursday, if their doctors deemed them well enough, and added that the recent trip was one she needed.

 
 

When her mother, who was in her 90s, died in Sengkang General Hospital early last month, Madam Tang was so distraught that she did not go out for three weeks.

With the support of hospice staff and volunteers, and through conversations with fellow residents, Madam Tang was able to come to terms with her mother's death.

Unfortunately, about three weeks ago, Madam Tang's close friend and a fellow resident, also died.

"We have to make use of the time we have. In the hospice, everyone is sick, so we can talk about anything," she said in Mandarin, dabbing away tears. "When talking to family, we don't want them to worry, so there are things we wouldn't talk to them about."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Vital to talk about death and dying: President Halimah'. Print Edition | Subscribe