Overseas News


The Art of Illness and Visiting the Patient

On the night of August 2nd, Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Centre Malaysia held a special lecture entitled “The Art of Illness and Visiting the Patient.” Although it was a workday, the lecture still drew about one hundred and thirty-five attendees. The crowd packed the meditation hall -- it was clear that this teaching was highly anticipated by the community. The lecturer was Kuo Huihsin, a community college instructor in the study of life and death, a specialist of training volunteers for hospice and palliative care, a counsel of honor in Pingtung Prison, and a columnist for Humanity Magazine.

Ms. Kuo’s lecture was so charming that the atmosphere in the meditation hall, far from solemn, became charged with enthusiasm. Speaking from her own wealth of experience in hospice care, Ms. Kuo reminded the audience that the patients in hospice care are often quite sensitive and perceptive about their caregivers – both the kind of care they are offering, and the energy and attitude the caregiver brings to their duties. The patients will view these visitors and loved ones with a sensitive heart, determining intuitively whether our caring can satisfy their needs. Consequently, the attitude and expressions of visitors can very much influence the patient, and further determine whether or not there is any positive effect to their care. When the teacher interacted with the listeners in the meditation hall, she asked everyone to practice how to view the patients with compassion and express their love to them -- for example, adjusting their height to eye-level when talking with patients, and how to hold the patients’ hands in a gentle and loving way.

Miss Kuo emphasized that, first and foremost, visitors should equip themselves with an attitude of love and compassion. She went on to say that this love was not simply a feeling toward the patient, but a mindset which requires continuous practice. To better cultivate this loving mind, the teacher advised the participants to practice meditation more often. First, she explained, it can help to calm the caregiver’s mind. Secondly, it reminds us to live at the moment at all times. By doing this, the patients would feel their visitors are truly ‘there’ with them – that they are on their side. If one continues practicing to the point where there is just one thought in a given moment, then we could become genuine companions to the patients, accompanying them through sharing, giving praise, thanks, and blessings.

The teacher also pointed out some common caveats to be mindful of that when visiting patients. We should of course avoid connecting the phenomenon of their illness to a moral cause. Illness is an expression of disharmony between the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind; It shouldn’t be labeled with sin and karma, which would in turn deepen the mental burden of the patients. Also, do not provide medical suggestions, as the patients may lose confidence in their treatment and current medical methods. Moreover, we should respect and take care of every patient according to their own uniqueness. This means that the process of visiting patients does not have an absolute Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Every person is an unique, independent individual and has different personal needs.

At the end of the lecture, the teacher pointed out the four essential elements of hospice and palliative care: holistic, family, team, and whole process. And she also broke down the five phases of hospice and palliative psychology: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the end, the teacher left the participants with a short but meaningful truth of palliative care: give the care of the patient over to the doctor, but give the care of life over to your faith. After the lecture had concluded, the listeners praised and showed their appreciation for their teacher, who taught a serious and meaningful life lesson in a humorous way.

Reporter: Lo Chienchiang (羅健強)
Photographer: Tsou Weihua, Fang Yingchang (鄒委樺、方迎璋)
Translator: Frances Liu (劉珮如)
Editor: Matthew Stoia

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