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The Heart of Humanity
30 April 2020

In home hospice care, we often see our patients and their loved ones at their most vulnerable. Being a social worker is both a privilege and a challenge – to do the best for the ones we serve. (Above) Paul with late HCA patient Abu Samah.

By Paul Bashyam, HCA Medical Social Worker

To work in the home hospice setting means that we support our patients and their families in the comfort of their own homes, as they walk the final stretch of the journey.

For us in the psychosocial services team, this entails being present with patients and families during this difficult time. On top of trying to work out the practical aspects of the patient’s care arrangements at home, we also need to attend to the emotional needs of both the patient and his or her family.

Due to the nature of our work, we almost always go to the homes of patients and their families to visit and provide them with the necessary support. This can be daunting as there might be unforeseen situations that could arise. In one such instance, an elderly patient suffering from dementia suddenly became agitated and started throwing the contents of her dining table at the nurse and me. We were both chased out of her house – my shoes, left at her doorstep, was not spared. She tossed them over the railing, down six floors!

Core Values

Nonetheless, as Medical Social Workers, we are anchored by our core values of Service: To provide help and resources to our patients and their families.

Social Justice: To uphold equal rights and opportunities for patients and their families.

Human Dignity: We believe that each and every patient and family is unique and has their own experiences and strengths.

Value of Human Relationships: We value our relationships with our patients and their families, as this relationship is the vehicle of change.

Integrity: We act honestly, responsibly and ethically at all times.

Competence: We practise within the scope of our abilities and we seek to constantly improve our knowledge and skills.

These core values guide our daily work and practice.

Essentially, we are humans first. We do feel sad when we find out that one of our patients has passed away; we also feel upset when patients or their family members direct their negative emotions at us.

Initially, I struggled with having to explain the nature of my work to my parents because there is a stigma that working in a hospice is very pantang*, as I would have to attend funerals and deal with matters that might expose me to the spiritual realm. Contrary, I have not seen or been to any spiritual realms, but my experiences have instead helped me to grow in my own faith and spirituality as a Catholic.

*Pantang is a Malay word that roughly translates to “taboo”

P.S. Social Workers’ Day was on 17 March, so if you see any of your social worker friends, you can still wish them a belated happy Social Workers’ Day!