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Calling for love and care at the end of life

(People's Daily Online)

14:46, February 06, 2013

Sad, hopeless, oppressive, and scared…

Is that your immediate impression for the word “hospice”?

Beijing Songtang Caring Hospice, founded in 1987, is considered as the first hospice in China.
“People often ask me 'what is hospice', and 'what kind of care do the dying patients need ?' It depends on the patients’ need, and we would offer them what they need. Generally speaking, we'll make the patient enjoy some comfortable and peaceful days with no regrets,” said Li Wei, director of the hospice.

The same as more than 110 other medical orderlies, Cheng Yurong stays in the ward all day long to take care of her three patients. She has no weekends nor holidays. Occasionally, when she has to go out for something urgent, the leave is generally limited to be no longer than one hour. Her monthly salary is only 1,800 yuan.

Mr. Wang is a psychologist coming back after studying abroad. He felt rather guilty when he had just sent his mother to Beijing Songtang Caring Hospice.

Cheng Yurong said, “Even if you pick your mother home, you are unable to stay by her side all day long. But I'll take care of her all day long right here.”

Mr. Wang felt comforted and relieved after her explanation. The psychologist's psychological problem is solved by the kindhearted yet poorly educated care worker.

“Traditionally, Chinese people always attach greater importance to birth health, rather than peaceful return to dust. A great deal of family members of our patients dare not tell others they have sent their parents or loved ones to our hospice because they are afraid of being accused of unfilial,” said Li Wei frankly.

On the other hand, the lack of qualified professionals is also a trouble to be addressed. The repeatedly trivial, dirty, yet tiring work with relatively low wages, cause the unevenness in the overall quality of the nurse aids, many of whom are the elderly and uneducated people from poor rural areas.

In hospice where palliative care (palliation and support) is mainly taken, the profit-making channels of other kind of hospitals, such as revenues from medications and examination are unfeasible. However, due to a nature of non-welfare institutions, such private hospitals could receive very little social contribution.

The advent of the “aging society” accelerates the social needs for hospice. “Is hospice a welfare service for the whole society, or a self-financing sector totally relying on its own operation?” “I hope there will be the ‘Aged Care Project’ in the near future besid