A parent’s world can be turned upside down when their little one is stricken by a life-limiting or life-threatening illness. Anxiety, exhaustion, uncertainty and loneliness often plague parents as they fight to provide the best medical support for their precious child.
Standing in the parent’s shoes – this is precisely the reason that Star PALS, a service provided by HCA Hospice (HCA), spearheaded a programme named “Medi Minders”.
This special group of volunteers come from all walks of life to provide respite for caregivers, allowing them time to run errands, take a breather from caregiving or focus their attention on their other children.
Janice prepares milk for feeding
“To equip them with the necessary skills, there will be a simulation-based training for all Medi Minders in basic hygiene, suctioning, enteral feeding, changing of urine bag and bed transfer,” shares Dr Janice Soo, 24, a pioneer Medi Minder. “After that, trainees will understudy an experienced Medi Minder for six sessions before they care for patients independently.”
gentle massage and light stretching for an afternoon workout
Each session typically stretches over four hours, during which Medi Minders may read a story book, play, sing, massage the patient’s limbs, or simply share their day. “Medi Minding has helped me to be more comfortable with non-communicative patients. They may not be able to respond, but there is this very special connection,” relates Janice.
She shares about a visit she made to Samantha*. Samantha was critically ill, and was drowsy and non-responsive when Janice visited her at her home. Knowing that Samantha appreciated music, Janice went to great lengths to move a heavy electric piano to the child’s bedside to play happy tunes and sing to the child. Her parents witnessed this extremely kind act and was moved to tears by this gesture.
Story-telling is a great way to interact with the children
“During one of my earlier sessions as a Medi Minder, there was a young girl with a congenital heart condition which became life limiting. She enjoyed watching movies, and so we would go out to the cinemas. Going out allowed her to live her life like a regular kid rather than staying home as it reminded her of her illness. It was nice to just be able to be her friend in that moment,” said Janice as she fondly recalled the precious memories she had with the patient.
Medi Minding is more than being a warm body or administering medications and feeds. It is a journey one undertakes with the family. “While we are there to provide caregivers the time and space to spend time alone or to deal with the grief and come to terms with the child’s condition, there are also times where we support them emotionally by just listening and walking this journey with them.”
The training that Medi Minders undergo keep caregivers fears at bay
And what makes her come back again and again over the last five years? Janice says, “Parents are always so appreciative. They often tell me that the work we do is very helpful and important to them. This is indicative of the great need for this service by our caregivers.”
Janice’s selflessness has inspired and touched the hearts of many and was recognised for her efforts at the recent Healthcare Humanity Awards 2018. One of the winners of the Volunteer category, she was highlighted for her commitment to bring “comfort and joy to young patients with life-threatening conditions”. The annual event organised by the National Healthcare Group recognises healthcare workers and volunteers who have displayed altruism above and beyond their call of duty.
Janice also shared with Channel 8 about her journey into volunteering with HCA and her experience as a Medi Minder. Catch her interview with “Hello Singapore” here!
If you would like to contribute in a meaningful way as a Medi Minder, clickhere for more information or to register.
*not her real name
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