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Staying In Touch… ‘[After] Death Do Us Part.’
13 March 2013

She drops by the homes of bereaved family members for a visit when support is needed.

And she makes it a point to ring over festive seasons, such as the recent Chinese New Year, and on special days when she senses emotions can become more tender than usual.

“It’s the least I can do,” says Ms Jacqueline Ang, Medical Social Worker (MSW) at HCA Hospice Care. “For some family members, the sense of isolation and loneliness from losing a loved one can intensify during this time… particularly for surviving spouses.”

While the risk of becoming physically ill or dying soon after the loss of a spouse can be greater for widowers, it is not uncommon to hear of surviving spouses reassessing the meaning of (continuing) their lives in the absence of their deceased partners.

She’s the best. I give her 101% credit for all that she’s done for both my wife and me.

A grateful Mr Cheok Georgie Boy says of Ms Jacqueline Ang, Medical Social Worker at HCA Hospice Care. Mr Cheok’s late wife was a beneficiary of HCA Hospice Care’s home hospice service.

A widower’s experience – including his ability to adapt and come to terms with the loss of a spouse – may vary depending on several factors. These include the widower’s age, prior health, lifestyle, relationship with his children, and the extent to which he is able to assume new responsibilities, including taking care of himself, without his wife.

Touching on the importance of having adequate emotional and social support, Ms Ang reveals a common misconception among relatives and friends who often express anxiety at the prospect of visiting someone whom they know to be very sick or dying.

“We hear of concerns about personal hygiene… to the possibility of contamination,” she says. “As a result, some may choose to stay away from visiting their loved ones altogether, even during traditional festive seasons like the recent Chinese New Year.”

“I wore this to the Registry of Marriage with my wife!”

Mr Cheok shows the suit that he hopes to ‘wear’ for his own funeral to Ms Ang who supported him and his wife during the latter’s final days.

“On the other hand, some of our patients – including their aged caregivers – have shared with us that festivities could provide the ‘excuse’ to meet, an opportunity to reminisce the good, old times, and to review a life well-lived,” Ms Ang says.

During the patient’s final journey, some questions that can come up in the minds of caregivers include:

  • Who can I turn to for help as I face the daily challenges of being a caregiver to a loved one?
  • Who can I fall back on to ‘hold’ and support me emotionally – without judgement – as I witness the physical changes of my loved one with each passing day?

When patients eventually pass on, and companionship becomes scarce for bereaved family members, the latter may turn to MSWs like Ms Ang for support.

“Some may recall the trials and triumphs of the caregiving journey that we experienced together, so they may wish to stay ‘connected’ with the team at HCA Hospice Care,” says Ms Ang.

While the most difficult time during the process of adaptation to spousal loss can be within the first six months to a year, Ms Ang acknowledges that some may adapt better and more quickly than others.

“We help the bereaved find inner resilience and, in time, establish a new way of continuing in the absence of their loved ones,” she explains.

“As we understand that this is no easy feat, and every bereavement experience is unique, we strive to support surviving family members as they find their own balance at their own pace.”

Some may recall the trials and triumphs of the caregiving journey that we experienced together, so they may wish to stay ‘connected’ with the team at HCA Hospice Care.