A Pioneer Talks about Learning from the Dying

“Our mission was to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, and I think that was reflected in our work.”

—Dr Patrick Kee, MWS Chairperson (1989–91, 1993–97)

One of MWS’s longest-serving chairpersons, Dr Patrick Kee, was involved in establishing the Methodist Home for the Aged Sick. Then located at St George’s Lane, the Home admitted its first six residents in August 1983. At that time, Dr Kee was serving on the Trinity Annual Conference’s (TRAC) Board of Social Concerns. A general practitioner, he volunteered to provide medical care to the residents.

MWS has since grown to a network of 20 centres and programmes that serve the needs of over 8,000 disadvantaged seniors, families, children and youth.

Seven years later, Dr Kee helped to promote hospice care in the Methodist churches after he took a course on it. This was to increase awareness of the needs of the terminally ill and the benefits of hospice care, with a view to incorporate it into MWS’s suite of eldercare services.

Teething Problems

Like many new organisations, MWS had its fair share of teething problems. One of the early challenges, said Dr Kee, was raising funds to support the operating costs of the Home and other services. Another difficulty was getting church members interested and involved in caring for the needy and elderly sick.

“I didn’t expect every Methodist to do it, but we were grateful to those who had a heart for it,” said Dr Kee, now 74.

The third problem—one that remains till today—is maintaining the health of the elderly and giving meaning to their lives.

The Bethany Story

About 16 years after MWS’s founding, the Home was expanded to accommodate 48 seniors, twice the number it started with.

With Singapore’s ageing population, the needs for the elderly sick continued to grow and the Home saw the need to expand yet again. MWS was then invited by the Ministry of Health to establish a new nursing home at a different site. This led to the setting up of Bethany Methodist Nursing Home at Choa Chu Kang in 2000, which was able to cater for 200 residents.

“My biggest passion was to care for the dying and I tried to incorporate it into Bethany Methodist Nursing Home,” recalled Dr Kee.

What the Dying Taught Him About Living

Dr Kee has learnt many lessons from treating chronically sick seniors. “Once, when we were doing our rounds in the ward, there was a blind elderly lady who was confused and shouting. She shouted even louder when the nurses tried to calm her down. When I came to her bed, I told her in a soft voice that I was a doctor and held her hand gently. She immediately turned into a sweet old lady. This taught me an important lesson that we need to ‘enter the world’ of the elderly who are confused.”

Through his palliative work, he has also learnt to come to terms with his own mortality as a Christian. “Caring for the elderly sick and dying,” he explained, “is not a one-way street. They have been my teachers—inspiring and teaching me how to grow old and to face death with the grace of God in order to live life more fully.”

*This story was published as part of the MWS 40th series in 2021, when MWS celebrated its 40th Anniversary.

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