For seven years, Mr Ramlee Rais has held firm to the belief that as long as his wife is still breathing, he will continue caring for her with all his heart.
For the past seven years, Mr Ramlee Rais has diligently cared for his wife, Madam Zainon Buang, who was rendered bedridden due to a second stroke. Every two to three hours, he would check in on her, observe her breathing patterns, and ensure she was not running a fever.
This level of meticulousness and conscientious care was best encapsulated by how Mr Ramlee would always keep a keen eye on his wife’s well-being, even when he was not by her side. For instance, when he was in the kitchen preparing food, he could view live video footage of Madam Zainon resting on her bed on his mobile phone. While cooking, he would constantly turn to look at the phone’s screen, not wanting to let her out of his sight even for a single minute.
The process of caring for his wife is a challenging one. Sometimes, she would only sleep for two hours a day. Mr Ramlee would also have to help draw out her phlegm every now and then, especially at night when it accumulates at an increased rate. His health has been affected by disrupted sleep, and he frequently experiences bouts of headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
The Tzu Chi palliative care team has been by his side through the years, helping to alleviate some of the challenges he faced while caring for Madam Zainon. Dr Tan Chun Yeal and palliative care nurse Nancy Tan would check in regularly on both the patient and caregiver on visits. For these routine checks, they not only monitored their physical health conditions but their mental states as well.
Over time, Mr Ramlee observed that his wife frequently appeared dispirited and downcast, leaving him at a loss as to what to do. “Sometimes, when I see her crying, it feels so pitiful, but I don’t know how to help her. I have tried various methods, and when she keeps crying, I just try to give her a massage,” he said.
PILLAR OF SUPPORT
Aware of Madam Zainon’s challenges, the Tzu Chi palliative care team stepped in to provide solutions to alleviate her suffering.
“The family said she was crying all the time, and it felt like she had symptoms of depression. To help her, we chose medicine with relatively mild side effects. If they reported to us that it did not work, we would then observe first before making adjustments later on,” said Dr Tan.
Palliative care nurse Ms Tan would also constantly be by the family’s side, providing both medical and emotional support. One aspect of Ms Tan’s work includes mentally preparing the caregiver for the patient’s eventual passing and she has already initiated the process with Mr Ramlee.
During her regular home visits, Ms Tan would delicately bring up the topic of Madam Zainon’s circumstances, hoping to help him face the situation bravely when the day to send her off arrives.
On one such visit, she advised Mr Ramlee: “You must learn to let go. To do so is difficult, but you must understand that it is a part of life.” Through her conversations with him, it seems that he is gradually coming to terms with his wife’s situation and the prospect of her leaving him at any time.
BEACON OF LIGHT
During this trying time for the family, the Tzu Chi palliative care team has been a shining beacon of light, helping to pave their way out of darkness by providing medical and psychosocial support.
“They are very sincere in offering their help. If my wife experiences any discomfort, we can contact them at any time of the day,” said a grateful Mr Ramlee. “Since accepting palliative care, I feel well-supported, and everyone is like a team.”
Caring for sick family members on the last leg of their life’s journey is never easy. But with proper support, it is not all doom and gloom. Mr Ramlee is determined to hold on and accompany his wife right to the end.
“This is God’s will. As long as she is alive and I still have energy, I will continue caring for her,” he said.
Photos: Tzu-Chi Foundation (Singapore)