Hospis Malaysia initiates campaign to promote dialogue around serious illnesses

October 4, 2018

The diagnosis of a serious, life-threatening illness such as cancer, organ failure, HIV/AIDS, and certain degenerating neurological conditions can be overwhelming, not only to the patient, but often also to their loved ones.

With the stress of treatments and caregiving needs, patients often bottle up their feelings of despair and sadness. Sometimes, denial of the life-limiting condition of the patient may set in, and the patient may find it difficult to discuss their feelings and what may matter most to them now that time may be limited.

Understanding the importance of being vocal about emotions early in the patient’s journey through the illness so that concerns are addressed, feelings acknowledged, and goals of care are met, Hospis Malaysia has launched a campaign to encourage conversations to support families who may have a loved one suffering from a serious illness.

‘Speak Up – There’s an Elephant in the Room’, features ten life-sized baby elephant sculptures called the Cik Gajah Limited Edition. The series was created from the sketches by Malaysian artist, Yusof Gajah, to draw attention to the issue.

“Our aim is to use the striking visuals of elephants in the campaign to encourage people who are facing such situations to speak up early in the patients’ journey through their life-limiting illness with the aim of enabling the patient to open up and voice to their loved ones or to their healthcare providers what matters to them at this stage of their life. Facilitating these conversations is central to the work of our palliative care workers,” said Datin Kathleen Chew, Chairman of Hospis Malaysia.

The campaign was launched by YB Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development at the KLCC Park Esplanade. Following the official launch, members of the public can catch the elephant installation at the KLCC Park Esplanade until 14 October, whence the elephants will be moved inside Suria KLCC from mid-October until April 2019. People are encouraged photograph the elephants and post them with #speakupforpalliativecare.

Every year, more than 56,000 Malaysians will require palliative care at the end of their lives, but less than 10% of this number will have access to it. With the life expectancy of Malaysians growing, the need for palliative care to alleviate the suffering of the very sick is expected to increase.

“The elephant in the room is too big to ignore, so it is our hope that this campaign which brings together stakeholders from the private sector, the public sector, and NGOs, will help raise awareness amongst the public about the issue; and with greater mobilisation of resources to ensure that palliative care becomes integrated into the nation’s healthcare system, palliative care may one day be accessible to all in need,” added Chew.

Each elephant sculpture has been adopted by donors from the private sector; Ancom Berhad/Redberry Group, Great Eastern General Insurance, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Mah Sing Foundation, OSK Foundation, Prince Court Medical Centre, Sunway Group, Suria KLCC, Anthony & Chloe Tan, and YTL Foundation.

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