My sisters, brother and myself decided to tell our dearest mother about her medical condition on 2 September 2017 at her home where she was still recovering from an operation she had earlier in July.
We decided to tell her a few days before she was scheduled to see the oncologist for the very first time at hospital. We agreed to meet at 2pm, but on my way to her home I decided to take a last-minute detour up along A Kung Kok Shan Road to have a look, probably more out of curiosity. I was made aware of the Jockey Club Home for Hospice by Ms Yeung on the hotline for the Cancer Fund. She was extremely helpful, informative and empathetic.
That detour changed our lives in more ways than one.
I was looking around the hospice from the outside and, as if by fate, I bumped into Ms Anna Mok, who was incredibly generous in reaching our to me and explained at length on how this might be a suitable place for my mother. After speaking to Anna and a tour of the hospice, my mind was made up/ Because of the enlightening conversation with her, I arrived home late, but it was all worth it. My mother knew despite the news about her health condition, a care plan is in place. The admission procedure was simple and clear. RN Jane Tsang offered all the help and information, as well as extended care for other family members, including our father who is suffering from dementia and still adjusting to life at a care home since my mother could no longer continue as his main caregiver.
In total, my mother stayed at the hospice on three occasions between September and November. The first two were only for a few days. One of the biggest challenge for her was to accept that she needed such care, having been very independent throughout her life. (This remarkable woman raised four kids in a foreign country before retiring back in Hong Kong). It also meant she had to accept the inevitable, and she was not prepared to let go just yet/ But she very quickly warmed to the care team and I can see she was trusting her life in their hands, quite literally.
The brilliant Dr Sophia Lamb established a care plan that both my mother and family members were comfortable with and she was always on top of the situation. That gave us a huge relief and space to concentrate on spending quality time with our mother. This was crucial especially during her third and final stay at the hospice. In those final three weeks, my mother’s condition deteriorated noticeably, from walking, joking and eating dinner together at the beginning, to being bedridden in the final few days. Despite so, she remained stubborn and strong! Sophia made all of us feel at ease during this rapid downturn and in hindsight, it was the sensitive and humane approach to medicine and care that sets her apart from a pure science-based approach. The heart is not just a muscular organ. The whole journey would not have been so smooth without the excellent RN Susan Mok. Susan very quickly gained the trust of my mother. She got words out of her like no one before, to help her prepare to let go and be at peace. She provided the essential reassurances both as a professional and a (last, new) friend. It is very difficult to describe in words on what a crucial and pivotal role Susan played. But I knew her heart was in it and I leaned heavily on her for calm advice, comforting guidance and clear instructions. She was always dependable and reachable (I apologise for the disturbance especially during those unsociable and after work hours). During our conversations and text messages, I often use the term ‘hospice’ while Susan would use ‘home’. Her use of the later I believe suggests her buy-in of palliative care in a ‘home from home’. Having experienced it firsthand I am now converted to ‘home’. Susan genuinely cared for other family members as well and believes deeply, albeit quietly, in the cause. If ever there needs to be a role model, look no further.
There are many, many equally exemptional healthcare professionals and support staff at the home for which I am extremely grateful for, including Dr Fu. I cannot thank them enough. My personal takeaways from this experience are threefold: 1) she passed away in a dignified manner, 2) she lived her remaining days in quality and 3) she was cared for by very good people. We (my mother included) are forever grateful for all you have done. She had all her children and family around her throughout the journey. She is now free and resting peacefully.
Steven (son of patient of Jockey Club Home for Hospice)