Keeping your chin up

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Keeping your chin up

A registered nurse recounts the mutual learning experience she had working with a pair of young caregivers.

Caregiving for a loved one who is approaching the end of life can be an intense and emotional experience. It takes a lot of strength and willpower to juggle one’s life while providing full care and support to their loved ones. Even the most determined individual may find it challenging to cope with this uphill journey. They would inevitably have to deal with loss as a family caregiver, while learning to adjust after their loved ones’ passing.

Our registered nurse, Bee Suan, has been asked many times why she wanted to work in hospice care and she would always answer with a beaming smile, “I adore my job here!”

She explained, ”Working in a hospital won’t give me the opportunity to know our patients and their families on a personal level.” We could sense that she is fulfilling her dream, and caring for people is what she enjoys.

Each day for the past three and a half years that she has been with Metta Hospice Care, every home visit has been a new learning experience for Bee Suan. Finding out more about her patients’ way of life helps her to provide better care options and support to them. “You get to understand their perceptions, likes and dislikes, as well as small details we might miss when working in a hospital,” she explained. “When your patients feel that you care about them, it genuinely warms their heart.”

One case made a deep and lasting impression on her. In her first year with Metta Hospice Care, she was assigned a patient who had advanced cancer, and was staying with her elderly husband and her two adult daughters.

“Both sisters were around my age at that time and it was difficult to see two young women who left their jobs to become full-time caregivers for their mother,” shared Bee Suan. She was determined to help them provide the best care and support to their mother. Caregiving duties for these two young caregivers who lack experience were a challenge at the beginning. Simple care interventions such as handling morphine can be quite overwhelming for inexperienced caregivers.

To overcome this, Bee Suan conducted caregiver-training sessions, teaching ways to recognise pain, determine the type of intervention for the patient, and wound care management. Seeing how eager and dedicated both caregivers were in picking up these skills makes her feel that the training and time spent was worthwhile. “They became excellent caregivers after training hard for a few months,” she said.

Over time, she forged an exceptional bond with them. “We discovered similar interests and common topics like learning foreign languages and K-pop, which created enjoyable conversations!” Bee Suan added enthusiastically. “They became more laid back, playing some K-pop music, and just relaxing when I visit for my nursing interventions. It makes me genuinely glad to watch them enjoy a well-deserved break.”

Bee Suan admitted that these two young sisters also taught her much. ”It is heartwarming to hear how the two young caregivers remained positive and strong throughout the whole journey,” she said. “Through them, I’ve also learned about staying optimistic.”

She added that we should always “keep our face towards the sunshine so that we will not see the shadow”. As hospice nurses journey with the patients till the end of their lives, they are often put on a rollercoaster of emotions. Hence, it is important for nurses to maintain their composure for the sake of their personal life and well-being.

Bee Suan journeyed with this family until the end of the patient’s life. One Tuesday morning, she was informed by one of the sisters that their mother has passed away peacefully. Sharing their grief, she is glad that both caregivers had remained strong throughout this difficult time.

Caregiver burnout is a real and serious issue, and she urges caregivers to speak up and seek assistance if necessary. “No one can go through everything alone,” she said. Being a young caregiver who has to stop working and sacrifice personal time is extremely stressful. “Even though these two caregivers had it tough, they never gave up and always remained optimistic. I believe this act of love is really admirable.”


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