When death comes knocking, how would you like to spend the last of your remaining life? According to a survey done by Lien foundation, 70% of Singaporeans wish to be cared for in the comforts of their own homes when they reach the end of life – also known as home palliative care.
Differences between institutional and palliative care at home
There are certain key differences between home care and institutional care in Singapore. Palliative care at home differs from facility-based care in the way that they are able to provide patients with a greater sense of independent living and comfort in familiarity. Indeed, being taken care of in a familiar environment with access to advanced medical facilities would enable more quality, round the clock care provided by trained and skilled nurses. Professional caregivers can take over laborious tasks such as feeding, bathing and clothing at home while family members can get a peace of mind with the additional help they can get while they are still learning and adapting to being caregivers. Institutionalised hospice care is probably needed if the patient requires more holistic and extensive care that family members are unable to fulfil.
However, for terminally-ill patients already struggling with the news of their pessimistic prognosis, is moving into an entirely different and regimented environment – without the warmth and familiarity of family, really a better option?
Today, the advent of nursing homes, hospices and elder care facilities that provide professional care and ensure safety standards have greatly made ageing easier. Increasing affluence has also enabled aged care facilities access to proper meals, professional health services, and staff to keep the elderly active with community activities at these facilities.
Yet, most still consider modern old age homes terrifying, bleak, and even an unpleasant place to spend the last phase of one’s life.
This is because the difference between an institutional care facility and a home, is that an institutional care facility “just isn’t home“.
When to consider home palliative care
Living in an institutional care facility in Singapore can feel like a loss of independence and ownership for many patients due to them being subjected to a more structured lifestyle regime in the institution. For example having to adhere to consistent bath timings and having the same variety of meals repeatedly. By relishing control of your own life, you do not get to choose what is good for you, even at your end of life. Losing control and individuality of your own life can feel constricting and suffocating. And think about it, do the elderly in aged care facilities really feel more support being in a community of others “in the same situation”? Or do they feel more negative and pessimistic?
Which is why palliative home care which provides help in activities of daily living and medical care to your doorstep, can provide a hopeful alternative option for terminally-ill patients who wish to be at home at their end of life.
In such home palliative care services, caregivers improve the quality of life of patients by meeting their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs all in the comforts of their own homes. Home care aides and nurses provide a range of home palliative care services focused on relieving a patient’s symptoms and pain, to day-to-day activities such as feeding and showering. They also provide caregiver education for family members and counselling sessions to prepare family members in times of need.
There are 6 home hospice providers in Singapore, which serve a total of about 5,500 patients, many of whom enjoy free nursing at home and home medical visits. However, these periodic visits are limited by time. Beyond 3 hours of consultation a week, patients’ families have to find other ways to bear the burden of care. Home care platforms can help provide convenient and fast access to healthcare. There are many palliative home care platforms in Singapore that can provide you with on-demand home care services at the click of a mouse. With a medical professional within reach and guiding you along your caregiving journey, patients and families can then get the assurance they need. Of course, quality of staff and experience with palliative care are factors that make a difference to families’ peace of mind.
Terminally-ill patients often lose their sense of pride and dignity when they fall too sick to be living independently, causing them to have to depend on others for the simplest of tasks such as bathing and eating. Yet, it is this dignity that patients seek most as they conquer the final lap of their lives.
As Dr Chong Poh Heng wrote on Channel NewsAsia, “Death is real, but so is hope. When one struggles with unrelieved pain from progressive disease, the will to live can only wane.”
Therefore, home palliative care improves the quality of life for terminally ill patients by giving them the option to lead the rest of their lives at home freely, and with dignity. We’re glad, that the advent of home care services really do provide hope and comfort for patients with the wish to be home at their end of lives.