SPEAK UP – There’s an Elephant in the Room

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

Often-times, emotions and feelings of distress and sadness are suppressed or deferred as the family proceeds to work through the treatment and caregiving needs of the patient. Sometimes, denial of the life-limiting condition of the patient may set in, and the patient may find it difficult to discuss his/her feelings and what may matter most to them now that time may be limited.

Recognising the importance of encouraging patients and their loved ones to speak up 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 initiated a campaign to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’ and encourage conversations to support families who may have a loved one suffering from a serious illness.

Aptly entitled ‘Speak Up – There’s an Elephant in the Room’, ten life-sized baby elephant sculptures called the Cik Gajah Limited Edition series have been created from sketches by Malaysia’s foremost naïve art artist, Yusof Gajah to draw attention to the issue. Each elephant sculpture has been adopted by donors from the private sector, namely 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.

The campaign was launched today 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 2018, which has been timed to coincide with the World Cancer Congress held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Subsequently, the elephants will be moved inside Suria KLCC and placed at strategic locations within the mall from mid-October 2018 until April 2019. “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.

“It is estimated that every year more than 56,000 Malaysians will require palliative care at the end of their lives, but sadly, less than 10 percent of this number have access to it. With more Malaysians living longer, 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 mobilization 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 Datin Kathleen Chew.

For more information about the “Speak Up – There’s an Elephant in the Room” Campaign, please refer to www.speakup.com.my.