Vital to have conversations about death and dying: President Halimah Yacob

President Halimah Yacob speaks with patient Mary Tang, 62, next to medical director of Dover Park Hospice, Dr Ong Wah Ying, at a visit to Dover Park Hospice on Jan 29, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob speaks with patient Mary Tang, 62, next to medical director of Dover Park Hospice, Dr Ong Wah Ying, at a visit to Dover Park Hospice on Jan 29, 2019.ST PHOTO: REI KUROHI

SINGAPORE - 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' preferences in the last days of their lives, said President Halimah Yacob on the sidelines of a visit to Dover Park Hospice in Novena on Tuesday (Jan 29).

"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," said Madam Halimah, after a tour of the facilities where she met employees as well as several terminally ill residents and 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.

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.

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 deem them well enough.

 
 

Madam Tang said the recent trip she took was one she needed.

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

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

Then, about three weeks ago, one of Madam Tang's close friends and fellow resident died.

Dabbing away tears, she said in Mandarin: "We have to make use of the time we have. 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."