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Remembering a Caring and Dedicated Father and Husband
27 October 2015

‘My family members and I believed that it was important to let my father live the life that he wants and likes rather than a life that is being dictated by others’, Fazli Bin Zainudin shared whilst he vividly recalls the medical advice he received from the doctor tending to his father, Zainudin Bin Awang, which is to allow him to assert a certain degree of control on his life despite suffering from lung cancer.

Importantly, the doctor’s advice became his family’s guiding belief in caring for Zainudin before he passed away in July this year. As such, despite his father’s condition, he was empowered to visit the toilet, take a stroll within the neighbourhood and make trips to the nearby mosque every Friday by himself. Moreover, to ensure that he remained mentally strong, Fazli and his family members encouraged him to think positively about life.

Stricken By Lung Cancer

Zainudin first discovered he had lung cancer after he was admitted into hospital due to a fall he sustained at his workplace in early 2012. For the next two years, his condition remained stable as he underwent chemotherapy treatment and visited the doctors at the hospital regularly. However, in April this year, his condition deteriorated when the cancer cells spread to other parts of his body. He also started to suffer from fits, spit out phlegm regularly and even had a seizure on the first day of Ramadan.

By June this year, Zainudin’s condition worsen further when he lost his ability to communicate audibly and became less ambulant as he had to depend on a walking stick to move about. It was also around this time that the doctor in the hospital shared with Fazli that his father’s quality of life will be adversely affected if he continues to undergo further chemotherapy treatments and recommended palliative care by referring him to HCA Hospice Care’s home hospice service.

Finding Quality Home Care And An Emotional Connection

Caring for Zainudin over the last few years had taken a physical and psychological toll on Fazli as well as his mother (Esah Binte Ahmad), and two elder brothers (Jamal Bin Zainudin and Nazri Bin Zainudin). Not only were they required to accompany him to and from the hospital, they also had to tend to his condition and needs at home as well as deal with the correspondences with various hospital staff. Moreover, the deterioration of Zainudin’s condition since April made the task of physically caring for him at home much more challenging.

Fortunately, the challenges of caring for Zainudin was eased through the help of HCA Hospice Care, whose nurses paid him weekly home visits since June this year.

“Every week, the nurses from HCA would come by to check my father’s condition, including monitoring his body temperature, level of mobility, etc. They also taught my family how to care for my father and showed genuine concern about my father’s condition. Most notably, one of the nurses – Kahvidah Mayganathan – was able to strike an emotional chord with my mother as she was able to connect with her due to her fluency in spoken Malay. She not only looked out for my father but also for my mum’s welfare. Till today, my mother still fondly remembers Kahvidah.” Fazli said.

Fazli recalled the time his father suffered from a sudden and unexpected seizure when HCA Hospice Care’s nurses Kahvidah Mayganathan and Leowi Tan conducted their maiden visit to his home. He shared how both of them acted promptly to treat his father and even took the effort to obtain medicine from their office and ensured his father’s condition had stabilised before they left. In addition, the nurses taught his family how to handle his father should he suffer from another seizure again.

Thankful for their efforts, he remarked, “Through this incident, HCA had given me the confidence that they were able to provide quality care for their patients.”

Apart from the home visits conducted by the nurses, HCA Hospice Care also helped to provide counselling for his parents. In this respect, Fazli shared the strain that his mother, who is a housewife, had to undergo as his father’s main caregiver. There were times when his mother’s strain was manifested through her temper directed at his father. He expressed gratefulness towards HCA Hospice Care’s Senior Medical Social Worker, Lola Ng, who not only counselled his parents but also took special effort to do so as early as 7am in the morning before he left home for work, so that he could play the role of a translator during the counselling sessions given that his mother was only able to communicate fluently in Malay.

Grateful for the care provided by HCA Hospice Care, Fazli shared: “The home care service provided by HCA reliefs the burden of caregivers of having to travel to and from various healthcare institutions. Importantly, the dedicated care provided by HCA’s staff gives mental strength and a sense of comfort to both the patient and caregiver. Their home visits and sincere attitude also helped brighten our lives. What was more remarkable were the occasions when they went beyond their call of duty to help us.”

Bonding Through Adversity

There is a saying that goes ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining’. The challenges that Fazli and his family members had to undergo as caregivers, especially in the last few months before Zainudin passed away, helped them bond with each other as it became necessary for them to communicate amongst themselves more frequently. In the process, each of them discovered their strengths and put it to good use in caring for Zainudin. Whilst Fazli became the main contact and liaison person between the staff from the various healthcare institutions, Esah performed the role of a full-time caregiver who helped care and cook for her husband, Jamal helped transfer and carry his father as and when required given that he was the strongest and biggest built member of the family and Nazri helped eased the physical discomfort his father experienced by massaging him.

“I will miss my father’s presence the most as he was the one that used to hold my family together. Although he was strict, he was also a caring and dedicated father who had sacrificed a lot for his family. He used to work very long hours when he was younger to help sustain his family financially and he took immense pride in his work as a long serving employee at SembWaste Pte Ltd for more than 20 years. Even when afflicted with cancer, he had always wished that he could return to work one day.” Fazli recalled and whilst also revealing a plaque that was awarded to his father by his employer for being the Best Cleaner.

It was on a Thursday and a day before Zainudin passed away in Bright Vision Hospital that he asked Fazli what day it was. Intuitively, Fazli knew that his father wanted to pass away on a Friday as it was considered a holy day for a Muslim. Fazli also shared that he was glad his family members and himself made the important decision to make peace with him and sought his forgiveness shortly before he passed on so that there were no emotional baggage left between all of them.

As our society grapples with the challenges of inculcating the importance of filial piety especially amongst younger people, perhaps the words uttered by Jamal, who is currently in his late twenties, will help inspire hope, “It is important for people of my generation to understand the importance of building a strong bond with their parents when they are still alive and not wait to do so only when they reach the last stage of their lives.”

Caregivers play an important role in supporting their loved ones. HCA Hospice Care supports caregivers by providing Palliative Caregivers Training every week, visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/services/palliative-caregivers-programme to find out more. If you’ll like to drop a word of encouragement to Fazli and his family, email us at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg.