While the mainstream white communities in America have accepted and taken advantages of the services and resources provided through hospice care, Chinese American communities not only are not aware of such program, but also shun the topics related to end-of-life - a taboo in Chinese culture.
Herald Cancer Care Network (HCCN), headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., held a press conference on Jan. 29 to inform the Chinese American communities of their upcoming seminar on end-of-life care (in Mandarin), which is main topic of the event. The ministry’s goal is to promote awareness and discussion on this issue in the Chinese context and to inform and educate families who are in need of this service.
Blanche Chen, the clinical supervisor of HCCN and a hospice social worker, said although death is an inevitable and important stage in a person’s life, it is a topic often avoided and discriminated. As a result, those in this stage of life are often left without suitable and qualitative care, and they and their loves ones would feel these unnecessary pains of abandonment by doctors or the medical system.
Introducing the nature of hospice care, Chen said that hospice caring process begins from entering the hospice till one year after death, where bereavement counseling services are provided for family member. In addition, hospice care is a team care, consisting of doctor, nurses, social worker, spiritual counselor, hygiene care, physical therapist, who helps the patient exercise their joints and ligaments, and nutritionist, who helps coordinate the patient’s diet, she said. This type of care is complete and humane, allowing the sick ones and family members to continue to have a good quality of life in the painful stage in life.
According to HCCN’s statement, a survey conducted in 2011 showed that only four percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders in California have utilized hospice, which contrasts the wide acceptance and use by Caucasians and other ethnic groups at the end-of-life stage.
Blanche Chen (Gospel Herald)
“Besides the discrimination and taboo towards death in Chinese culture, another reason is the lack of access to resources and wrong understandings of medical information. For example, people misunderstand hospice care as euthanasia; it is where you just do nothing, sit there, and wait to die. Some even think that hospice care is only for terminal cancer patients, but whoever has been diagnosed with less than six months to live can all receive hospice care treatments,” said Chen.
Jeanne Wun, community relations manager of Hospice of the Valley in Santa Clara County, said that while hospice is a benefit for Chinese Americans with insurance such as medical, medi-care, private insurance, they, as a non-profit, will do fund-raising to provide that care for them. Wun’s parents received care provided by the hospice at their home until their death.
Besides educating the Chinese American communities about the benefits of hospice care, one of the other topics to be presented at the seminar is “advanced health care directive” and “physical order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST).” In recent American history, the Terri Schiavo case involved family members having to decide whether to keep loved ones alive using advanced medical equipment, which resulted in a legal struggle that put Schiavo on prolonged life support that lasted from 1998 to 2005. In this case, Schiavo did not complete the “advanced health care directive.”
In a research conducted by Public Agenda in 2010, about one third of Americans say they’ve had to make decisions about end-of-life care for a loved one.
According to HCCN’s news release, it said that many Chinese Americans do not know what Advance Health Care Directive is and how this documentation can help when facing a life-threatening illness. Therefore, there is a crucial need for education Chinese Americans about these end-of-life care options and related issues.
Wun said that what HCCN is doing allows people to talk about these issues and it is important to understand one’s family wants at the end of life. “You don’t want to guess what they want, because you can end up in a hospital situation and be on life-support” for an indefinite period of time, and “families haven’t made decision on what did Mom want. What did Grandpa want?”
Zoe Cowherd Alameda, owner and funeral director of Alameda Family Funeral Cremation, said, “Hospice is not wishing for someone to die sooner, but it is wishing for them to have a good and comfortable death, to be able to tell their loved ones that they love them, and loved ones can tell him how much that person meant to them, and to give their life meaning. In any community not just in Asian community, sometimes they think that going to hospice is giving up, but it isn’t giving up, but it is giving a benefit to the end of life.”
Wun commented on what HCCN is doing is more progressive than what American mainstream new media are talking about.
“People say they don’t want to talk about it, but when you hold seminars like this, the room is filled up. People want to talk about it. We find that when we put on a program is that my children don’t want to talk about it, but I need to prepare and talk care of this business so my children won’t have to make these decisions for me. Part of it is cultural,” she said.
The End-of-Life Care Seminar for Chinese Americans will be held at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center on March 2, 2013 from 8:30 am to 4 pm. The event is sponsored by Dignity Providers of Bay Area, El Camino Hospital/Chinese Health Initiative, Mission Hospice & Home Care of San Mateo County, Hospice of the Valley of Santa Clara County, Alameda Family Funeral Cremation, and Coalition for Compassionate Care of California.
The seminar is limited to 150 participants (lunch will be provided). Pre-registration can be made by calling Herald Cancer Care Network at 408-986-8584 or online at http://cancer.cchc.org.
Herald Cancer Care Network (NCCN) is a subsidiary of Herald Cares and has been established since 2004 in San Francisco Bay Area. Over the last eight years, HCCN has provided direct services to over 3,000 Chinese cancer patients and family members, and outreached to another 6,000 people in cancer education, screening, and caregiving training seminars in America. HCCN provides both local and nation-wide cancer care programs to local Chinese communities throughout the states. HCCN has 20 volunteers answering phones and providing telephone care, and support group at Valley Medical Center. Their monthly telephone conference is provided in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese. They work through churches and other non-profit organizations such as American Cancer Society, El Camino Hospital.