CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Emotional needs of the terminally-ill

HONG KONG (SE): The fifth Bioethics Conference is scheduled to be held at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tseung Kwan O from December 9 to 10 with a focus on the care of the terminally-ill.
The conference is being organised by the Bioethics Resources Centre of the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in cooperation with some other organisations.
Government statistics show that over 30 per cent of the total population will be in their sunset years by 2036, which means the number is expected to increase from the 1.16 million of 2016 to 2.37 in 2036.
Francis Mok Chun-keung, the director of the Geriatric Department of Tuen Mun Hospital, told the Kung Kao Po that catering to the emotional needs of the terminally ill is especially important in Hong Kong, as society is facing a period of rapid aging, partly because improvement in medical practice has brought a significant lengthening of life span.
Mok said that terminal patients are in dire need of support, as they have to prepare their minds for death in the face of physical pain, and very often they feel they are being left alone.
He said he hopes that more comprehensive programmes can be planned by the government or non-government organisations to address the mental needs of terminally ill patients.
Mok pointed out that there is still a lack of end-of-life care and palliative care programmes in Hong Kong even though the Hospital Authority has allocated more resources to this sector in recent years.
The doctor from Tuen Mun admitted that he may appear to lack empathy when he is on the job due to his heavy everyday workload, but his faith often reminds him not to be indifferent to the feelings of patients and pay more attention to their needs.
He said he also notices that his patients usually come to the clinic in the company of their elderly spouses or simply come alone. Only a few of them are accompanied by foreign domestic workers or their children.
He said he shows his appreciation to the family when they accompany patients, as their presence helps fulfill their emotional needs, which is an important thing for their wellbeing.
Sze Wai-yan, a former medical social worker, explained that her faith often reminds her to cater to the spiritual and emotional needs of patients while looking after them and their families.
She recalled that she has, with the consent of the patient, invited a nearby parish to visit an aged man, as he had no family to take care of him after being discharged from hospital.
She also informs the hospital chaplain when the occasion arises and asks for attention to be given to such patients.
When patients pass away, parish bereavement groups can help to relieve pressures on families. Choi Chi-keung, the chairperson of the bereavement group of St. Benedict’s in Shatin, said bereavement services have helped him to look at life and faith more closely.
When approaching non-Catholic families, the bereavement group explains Church views on life and death, telling them that Catholics believe in eternal life and that this life is only part of a person’s complete life.
He believes giving a dignified and grand goodbye to the departed gives a positive feeling to the bereaved, which can help them be aware of the truth of eternal life and the importance of preparing for life in future.

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