Singapore Hospice Council hopes new initiatives will allow patients, families and caregivers who could benefit from palliative care to be identified earlier
To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) this year, Singapore Hospice Council (SHC) organised the “Live Well, Leave Well” Roadshow at Kebun Baru Community Club. SHC launched two initiatives at the event, “SHC Community Signposts” and “SHC Ambassador Programme”, which aim to increase awareness of palliative care in the community to support patients and families who could benefit from earlier palliative care.
Mr Henry Kwek and Mr Yip Hon Weng, Grassroots Advisers and MPs of Kebun Baru and Yio Chu Kang Single Member Constituencies (SMC), were present at the launch. The SMCs are the first with Community Signposts, allowing patients and families who could benefit from palliative care to be identified earlier.
The initiative will provide the SMCs with the necessary community support and access to palliative care resources and information. SHC resources such as brochures and self-help books will also be available at the Signposts. SHC aims to have a Community Signpost in every constituency in five years.
Mr Henry Kwek said, “During my house visits, I met with residents who could benefit from the new SHC Community Signpost initiative. We currently have 16 volunteers under this signposting initiative. We hope to increase this number to 50 by the end of the year so that we can identify patients, families and caregivers earlier to benefit from this holistic, patient-centric care approach.”
Mr Yip said, “In the Yio Chu Kang SMC where I serve as the Grassroots Advisor, 30-40% of the residents are elderly seniors. It is thus important for more to be aware of palliative care. Having a Community Signpost will allow people to know how palliative care can help and where the resources are in the community.”
The SHC Ambassador Programme was also launched at the event. SHC aims to recruit 200 palliative care advocates annually from all walks of life as part of its community outreach efforts to promote and advance public understanding of hospice and palliative care. These ambassadors will lend their voices and start at least 2,000 conversations a year. Talking about death and dying removes the stigma and taboo surrounding them as it is the first step to normalising such conversations.
SHC Executive Director Ms Sim Bee Hia shared, “It is never too early to learn more about palliative care and be an advocate for it with family and friends. It is our duty and personal responsibility to be prepared for our departure, not just for ourselves but also for our loved ones.”
SHC data from FY2017 – 2020 showed that people who received specialist palliative care services did so very late on their illness journey. Ms Sim said, “The median time from referral to death ranged from 27 to 35 days for cancer diagnoses and 11 to 13 days for non-cancer diagnoses.”
She added, “Palliative care is most effective early in the course of the illness; it improves the quality of life of patients and families and reduces unnecessary hospitalisation.”
At SHC’s “Live Well. Leave Well.” Roadshow, a community outreach event to advance public understanding of palliative care and end-of-life matters, visitors participated in various reflective and hands-on activities designed to normalise conversations on end-of-life issues. Special workshops such as Art Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Nutrition Care also raised awareness of the multidisciplinary team approach to palliative care.
There were also interactive booth activities for visitors, including a String Art Wall to poll the participants on their views on end-of-life issues. Another booth invited visitors to tune into caregivers’ inner world, sharing audio recordings of their caregiving stories and a mini theatre screening of SHC’s Life Films — stories inspired by real- life events.
Photo: Singapore Hospice Council