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Caregivers make time for some serious fun at Star Pals Family Day 2013
13 March 2013

Caring for a child with a critical condition or special needs is hard work.So, on Saturday, 9 March 2013, some 40 family caregivers gamely accepted a special invitation extended to them by the Star PALS team, to play as hard as they have been working in their role as caregivers.

Participating caregivers – including siblings, parents and grandparents – set aside a day just to have someserious fun during an activity camp organised by Star PALS, held at the Orchid Country Club.

And they were able to do so with peace of mind, thanks to the trained respite caregivers (also known as ‘Medi-Minders’) and professional nurses who were present to accompany and care for the children. Medical social workers, counsellors and volunteers were also on hand that day to assist, making sure that patients, their siblings, parents and grandparents who came by were comfortable and looked after.

As such, caregivers could relax and unwind as they participated in an exciting range of activities, including archery, bowling and swimming.

“I believe our care extends beyond our patients to those around them at home,” says Dr Chong Poh Heng, Programme Director of Star PALS. “I’m really pleased to note that by the end of the day, every member in the family knows that their well-being means as much to us as that of their child’s.”

Star PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support), an initiative by HCA Hospice Care, is a paediatrics palliative care service that provides holistic home care for patients aged 19 years and below, and extends support to their families and caregivers.

Patients may suffer from congenital and neurological diseases, to childhood cancers. Multidisciplinary care is provided by doctors, nurses, medical social workers, counsellors and allied health specialists like art therapists.

Besides the core group of medical professionals, Star PALS also actively engages the help of trained respite caregivers, known as Medi-Minders.

For more information, visit: www.starpals.sg

While there were several activities… I felt [my] greatest gain was from the dialogue sharing with all participating parents.It was a time [for us] to share our tears and learn from each other and, last but not least, how to prepare [ourselves] and to overcome the [challenges] that we face.

I really appreciate and am thankful to Star PALS and the volunteers for organising such a meaningful event to gather the parents to have a day off…

– Kin Nam, father of Amelia, a beneficiary of Star PALS.

Dr Chong added that as a paediatric palliative care team in the community, Star PALS aims to deliver comprehensive and family-centred care by addressing medical needs, providing counselling and psychosocial support, and guiding families to the appropriate aid channels where necessary.One key highlight of the camp featured a closed-door dialogue sharing among the participants. It served as a platform for caregivers in similar circumstances to network and to share their unique experiences with the Star PALS team which provided emotional support and practical advice on how they could better prepare themselves and cope more effectively moving forward.

Since its operations in April 2012, Star PALS has supported over 50 children and their families. The service which is offered by HCA Hospice Care supports over 25 patients at any one time.

It was a great privilege to be entrusted with caring for the children who require 24-hour care. This camp allowed the parents and siblings the chance to have fun but, more importantly, to meet other families who have the same daily joys and struggles of caring for a physically dependent child.My key responsibility for that day, and the responsibility of all the other volunteers, nurses and Medi-Minders, was to allow the parents to leave their precious children in our care, knowing that we would care for them as if they were our own, and that they were free to ring us to ask how the children were doing… We just hoped for the families to have some fun while being supported within an environment that was conducive for them to speak candidly and honestly in the presence of our trained professional counsellors.

– Kay Thomson, Medi-Minder Coordinator, Star PALS.

Caregivers usually put in more than a hundred per cent into caring for their loved ones and often neglect looking after themselves…Through events like the Star PALS Family Day 2013, parents and caregivers have the opportunity to energise themselves, as the constant strain of caring for a loved one can be physically and mentally overwhelming.

It was a wonderful opportunity to get up close in an informal setting. I will never forget how we shot arrows side by side at the archery range in friendly competition!

– Dr Chong Poh Heng,
Programme Director, Star PALS.