Support us as we seek to honour Mr Ng’s wish to pass on at home

66 year-old Mr Ng Lian Hay was devastated when the doctor told him he had stage 4 lung cancer. He said, “Stage 4 means there is no hope at all. It just means waiting for death.” He received what he felt to be his ‘death sentence’ in 2020.

Despite feeling helpless and hopeless, he tried to fight the cancer with chemotherapy; but it was futile. His symptoms worsened. He used to be a cleaner but could not work anymore as he struggled with pain and breathlessness. Being single and staying alone in a one-room rental flat, even his wish of remaining at home became challenging as his legs weakened.

Mr Ng has a loving elder sister – 74 year-old Mdm Ng Lye Choon. Despite having her own family commitments, she travels by bus and MRT for an hour each way to visit her younger brother every day. She accompanies him for most of the day, prepares his meals and cleans his home, giving him a comfortable environment to rest. Though it is tiring and stressful for her, she does it readily to honour his wish of spending his remaining days at home.

Mr Ng came under the care of Assisi Hospice Home Care team in January 2021. Our nurse, doctor and medical social worker visit him regularly and provide urgent help to him and Lye Choon. Mr Ng was admitted to Assisi Hospice Inpatient ward twice when his pain became unmanageable at home. Lye Choon said, “Both the Home Care nurse and doctor came and checked on him when he was in a lot of pain, and they advised him to be admitted. They helped to get a free ambulance* for him. In the inpatient ward, the doctor helped to relieve his pain.”

Mr Ng was discharged after a few days as he still preferred to be at home. Our medical social worker helped to get a donated hospital bed for him.

Our Care Team persuaded Mr Ng to attend Assisi Hospice Day Care Centre for further support. Mr Ng attends Day Care three days a week, receiving the clinical care that he needs. He benefits from the physiotherapy sessions and interaction with our staff. This also provides much respite for Lye Choon. She said, “There are people who will take care of him there, so I am less stressed. They will pick him up and bring him back, and they (the van escort volunteer) will even wait for him to go into the house and lie down safely on the bed before leaving.”

It is a continuous journey as we seek to honour Mr Ng’s wish to pass on at home. Support our work as we journey with patients and caregivers like Mr Ng and Lye Choon.

*Ambulance fee supported by donation.

Support Mdm Lim and her daughter in their time of need

61 year-old Mdm Theresa Lim, was sold to adoptive parents when she was 8 years old. She did not have the chance to go to school and instead, received frequent canings. Having had an unhappy childhood, she chose to raise her only daughter single-handedly after she found out that her partner had been unfaithful. She worked as a night-shift waitress so as to take care of her daughter Venus in the day. When Venus was older, she worked 12-hour shifts in a bakery. Eventually, she managed to support Venus through her polytechnic education.

Just when Mdm Lim thought she could have more time with Venus, she was diagnosed with nose cancer in 2020. Despite radiography and chemotherapy, the cancer relapsed in 2021. She had difficulties swallowing solid food and lost her appetite. She experienced impaired hearing and vision, facial pain and swelling. She was also prone to falls. Venus had to stop work to care for Mdm Lim.

Mdm Lim came under the care of Assisi Hospice’s Home Care Service in December 2021. Our nurses and doctors visit her regularly, helping to manage her symptoms. Venus is especially thankful for our 24/7 helpline. She said, “Mum had a fall recently in the early hours of the morning and had a cut on her forehead. The Care team provided clear directions over the phone, I was able to care for her wound and did not have to rush to the A&E. There were also times when I could adjust her medication with directions to ease her discomfort.”

As Mdm Lim is mainly on a liquid diet and is on diapers to reduce risk of falls at night, our social worker provided practical help by linking them to financial aid for subsidised purchase of these medical consumables.

During these challenging times, support our work to ensure that patients like Mdm Lim and caregivers like Venus receive help in their time of need.

Help bring care to twice-disabled Uncle Choy

Disabled at birth, 73-year-old Mr Choy Yau Seng was born with a deformed left hand and was unable to grasp and hold with it. In a family of seven children, he only managed to attend a few years of primary school due to financial challenges in the family.

His father passed on when he was in his teens. To help his family make ends meet, he started working at a fruit stall in Chinatown. However, he was too slow for the stall owner’s liking due to his physical constraint and soon lost the job. Without an education and with a disability, he could only work in a sheltered workshop, doing simple tasks like packing items in paper bags and labelling price tags, earning a token sum of $5 a day.

He tried to increase his income by working with his neighbour to buy fruits in bulk and sold them along the streets in Chinatown. Though that was his most “profitable” work, it was illegal, and he was soon caught by the police, and referred to another sheltered workshop. He tried to find work as a cleaner but was rejected as he could not sweep and mop the floor with one hand. Eventually, he found work as a toilet attendant. Life was simple and he found joy in his favourite fried Hokkien prawn mee with colleagues after work.

However, he was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2018. When his condition deteriorated, he started to experience persistent weakness and fatigue, and shortness of breath.

By early 2022, he was too weak to move his lower limbs and could not walk. As he was staying alone in a rental flat in Kim Tian, there was no one to take care of him when he gradually lost the ability of basic activities of daily living – disabled the second time. He had to be admitted to Assisi Hospice inpatient ward in Feb 2022, to receive symptom management and nursing care that he needed.

At Assisi Hospice, he not only received care, but also found acceptance and companionship. Our staff and volunteers under the No One Dies Alone programme became his friends and bring him cheer as they journey with him. A fan of oldies by Theresa Teng and Yu Tian, he enjoyed singing his favourite songs with our music therapist. Painting sessions with our art therapist brought him cheer. Help us bring comfort and joy as we journey with lonely and needy patients like Uncle Choy.

Uncle Choy passed away peacefully on 27 April 22 with a NODA volunteer next to him.

Bring Mdm Koh cheer during festive season

For some of our patients like 73-year-old Mdm Koh Siew Yong, their deteriorating health has denied them their simple Chinese New Year wishes.

Coming from a poor family, Mdm Koh, who was the youngest of four children, recalled that the highlight of Chinese New Year reunion dinners was the “white cut chicken (白斩鸡)”. Her father would wrap a dollar or so in red paper and give them to the children as “red packets”, and it was enough to make them happy. After she grew up and started her own family, she was a housewife and would prepare reunion dishes like stir-fried pork belly with leek. However, her marriage failed when she was in her 30s. She often had to spend Chinese New Year alone. She still kept to the tradition of cleaning and making sure her place was spick and span, playing Chinese New Year songs and cooking herself a rare treat like sea cucumber. She said, “It happens only once a year, so no matter what, I would still celebrate it.”

However, she is unable to manage celebrating Chinese New Year in simple ways like spring cleaning or cooking something special for herself now. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with Interstitial lung disease and had to stop working as a cleaner due to breathlessness. Her condition deteriorated gradually. Due to frequent giddiness and weakness in her legs, she now depends on a walker to steady herself when she moves around. Staying alone in a two-room rental flat, she cooks simple porridge to settle her daily meals as she cannot stand for longer periods of time for more complicated cooking. She ventures out for grocery shopping only when needed.

We journey with Mdm Koh and bring her care and comfort as she faces her challenges. Mdm Koh came under the care of Assisi Hospice Day Care Centre in March 2019. Our doctors and nurses work closely to manage her symptoms, so that she can be as physically comfortable as possible. She benefits from the exercise and group therapy sessions, where our physiotherapists and occupational therapists optimise her mobility and independence in daily living as much as possible. Our medical social workers offer emotional and psychosocial support, providing her a listening ear as she grapples with her deteriorating condition. For Chinese New Year last year, our volunteers helped her with her grocery shopping. We also delivered special reunion dinner meals to her on Chinese New Year’s Eve for the past two years.

We cared for Mdm Chow who was staying alone

74 year-old Mdm Chow Mai Lai was adopted when she was two years old. After only a few years of schooling, she started working at the tender age of 12 when her adoptive father passed away. As a young child, she helped with baby-sitting, house-cleaning and dish washing at hawker stalls to supplement the family income. When she was 26 years old, her adoptive mother passed away due to kidney disease. She stayed alone in a one-room rental flat in Kim Tian as she was not close to her siblings.

Throughout the years, she led a simple life and worked hard for a living. She took on waitressing and cleaning jobs, the longest being a cleaner in an office building in Shenton Way, where she spent over 20 years. She made coffee and tea for the staff besides cleaning duties and got along well with them. She remained single and continued to stay alone. After a long day at work, her simple pleasure was brewing soup for herself.

Even when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer eight years ago, she continued working. She finally retired 2 years ago at the age of 72. However, she soon discovered that her cancer had spread. She had difficulty passing urine and had an operation for a Percutaneous nephrostomy (PCN) insertion, to drain the urine directly from her kidney to a drainage bag permanently. She was frequently anxious about the leakage from her urostomy bag at her PCN insertion area. Due to the cancer, her right leg was swollen and getting weaker. She had to move around the house using furniture for support and fell down a few times. She could no longer manage the daily household chores which she used to take pride in, like keeping her home clean and tidy. She was unable to do grocery shopping or buy food for herself and was dependent on the goodwill and assistance from her neighbours and a social service organisation. She was also dependent on financial assistance to cope with her day-to-day expenses.

Mdm Chow came under the care of Assisi Hospice Home Care team on 14 July 2021. Our Home Care nurse visited her weekly to check on her health condition and helped to replace her urostomy bag to prevent leakage. The Care team provided her with a donated wheelchair, which helped her to move around in and out of the house. As Mdm Chow’s wish was to remain at home as far as possible, our medical social worker provided support, including exploring home personal care services for regular house cleaning which would help her to be more comfortable at home, and providing her needed medical consumables like milk supplements and waterproof bed pads.

Mdm Chow’s condition deteriorated and was admitted to our Inpatient ward in Feb 2022. She passed away in Assisi peacefully on 3 Mar 2022.