Patients with terminal illness may be reaching the end of their lives, but palliative care is all about helping them live despite of and with the terminal illness. Much can be achieved by physiotherapists in the areas of pain and breathlessness, as they help with functional decline and improve the sense of well-being.
Meet Magdalene Tan, Senior Physiotherapist at St. Andrew’s Community Hospital. Her main role is to help palliative care patients in improving functional mobility and controlling symptoms.
Meet also Muhammad Nashiruddin, Physiotherapist at St. Andrew’s Community Hospital. He has been working as a physiotherapist for 2 years and has recently taken up the same role in palliative care.
What is a life worth living to you?
Magdalene: Living your life to the fullest, and leaving a legacy for my family.. I have children, so I want to be known as a loving mother, and to be a good role model for them. In turn, I hope they could contribute to society. I also want to be a good role model to the physiotherapy students I train, teaching them to provide love and support for our patients. I hope to inspire my students and convince them to work in this line in the future as physiotherapists.
Nash: If we can make a positive impact on people’s lives – that to me is meaningful. Helping my patients recuperate and reducing their suffering gives my life meaning, especially when I know that I’ve managed to help them or lessened their suffering. As you go through your life,, you want to not only have a positive impact on other people’s lives, but keep on doing it so as to help more people.
“Does it have to take a prognosis of dying to start this conversation?” -Magdalene
Magdalene: Dying can happen anytime, whether abruptly or over a prolonged period. The most common thought that people usually have before they die is that they want to make peace with their family members and friends before they pass on. There are situations where patients continue to be estranged from their families till the time they die, and thus at the end, they they are left with regrets of how things could have been. Do not wait for a health crisis before you start to be loving and make peace with your family members and friends.
Nash: It is my personal belief that the most important thing about dying is to check and evaluate yourself to see if you are prepared for it. I’m not worried about talking to my family about death. I’m not afraid of dying, as it’s a natural process. If you are prepared spiritually and emotionally, then you will be ready to go.
To me, death is a blessing when you are spiritually and emotionally prepared. If you have done what is necessary, then it will be sufficient to know that you have done your best. It’s like studying before an exam and then knowing the exam is nearing an end when the final bell rings. Being prepared spiritually, would mean getting right with God or making up with family members. Being prepared emotionally would mean managing the emotions you have and having the peace that comes from knowing that you have done your best to contribute towards society.
“People think that palliative care settings are places to go to die, but that is a misconception.”– Nash
Magdalene: Our role is not just helping the person recover physically, but also holistically focusing on the person’s mental and spiritual well-being. Spirituality is not just religion per se; it is about obtaining answers to the meaning of life and self-identity. We want to help the person live a good life till the end. The definition of a good life is for the individual to define and decide on, not the healthcare professional nor the family members.
Nash: Palliative care is where the professionals do their best in giving more meaning to the patient’s life. It’s not a place for suffering till the end of life, but for getting help and having meaning to your final part of life. We aim to prioritise the patient’s comfort. People think it’s a place to die, but that is a misconception. We give therapy based on their capacity and it’s a place for the patient to feel comfortable and relaxed.
The Good Death seeks to transform the negative notion of death itself and is focused on promoting early planning for one’s end-of-life care, especially so for adults over the age of 50. Find out all about The Good Death, ACP and Palliative care here!