Speech by Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State for Health at Peacehaven Nursing Home’s“Together We Can Do It” Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration, 6 Sep 2014

Lieutenant colonel Leopoldo Posadas,
Chief Secretary of The Salvation Army, Singapore, Malaysia & Myanmar Territory

Mdm Low Mui Lang,
Executive Director of The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home

Dr Ang Kiam Wee, Principal of ITE College Central

Students, ladies and gentlemen

Introduction

              Good afternoon everyone.

2.            I am very pleased to be here to witness this remarkable feat by Peacehaven and ITE to create and build Singapore’s tallest straw lantern—it is beautiful. I would like to applaud all the residents, students, staff and volunteers who had contributed time and effort to this worthy challenge. Thank you for the privilege to light up this lantern and be part of this milestone event.

3.            The theme for this year’s Dementia Awareness Month is “Together we can do it!”, and indeed, as a community, we should raise greater awareness about dementia and create a supportive environment in caring for our elderly with dementia.

Creating awareness through education

4.            Dementia is a condition most common amongst the elderly, and will become more prevalent with our ageing population. Depending on severity, persons with dementia often suffer from memory loss and may face difficulties carrying out daily activities or making judgement. They may also experience changes to their personality and behaviour and be unable to express their needs clearly.  

5.            There is a pressing need to raise awareness about dementia and educate the public about the condition to promote greater understanding and acceptance within our society. Early detection of the condition also allows persons with dementia to be well-supported, so that they can continue to lead meaningful  lives.

6.            Today’s event of building Singapore’s Tallest Straw Lantern is a fine example. Through this partnership between Peacehaven Nursing Home and ITE College (Central), students and volunteers are able to interact with the residents and deepen their understanding of how to better communicate with our seniors. It is also heartening to see the residents enjoying the lantern building process and spending quality time with their friends and loved ones.

Providing accessible and quality dementia care

7.            Dementia patients require special care so that their conditions can be better managed. MOH recognises this and has actively ramped up our aged care services to support the needs of seniors with dementia. We are building up the capacity of dementia care services in our eldercare centres to allow seniors with dementia to be cared for in the community as far as possible. We are also building up our nursing home capacity to provide more accessible care for seniors whose condition or lack of family support makes it difficult for them to be cared for at home.

8.            We also want to work with providers to offer better quality care. Peacehaven’s “Hope Residence”, which has been specifically designed for persons with moderate dementia, is an example of how we can continue to provide these residents with a good quality of life. With some prompting and support from care staff, these residents are able to engage themselves in activities, chit-chat and play games or relax in the garden. There is also a gym for them to keep themselves healthy. I also noticed the dementia-safe features such as hand rails along the walkways and visual cues to help residents find their way about the residence. I understand that Hope Residence was awarded the winner for Best Dementia Care Programme at this year’s Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards and I would like to commend Peacehaven Nursing Home for its commitment to provide quality and person-centred care to its residents.

Supporting Caregivers

9.            Apart from support for our elderly, it is also important to provide support for the caregivers of persons with dementia. We have many schemes which   caregivers can tap on. For example, for families who need to hire a Foreign Domestic Worker to support their loved ones in Activities of Daily Living such as eating, bathing or dressing, the Foreign Domestic Worker Grant of $120 a month helps ease the financial burden of hiring a Foreign Domestic Worker.  To date, more than 7,000 families have benefitted from the grant.

10.         Caregivers can also attend training on looking after persons with dementia, preventing falls and improving home safety. The Caregivers’ Training Grant offers an annual subsidy of $200 to subsidise the cost of these training courses. 

11.         In terms of caregiver respite, the Eldersit service allows caregivers to take a few hours off to attend to their own needs. During this time, a trained Eldersitter will engage the client with dementia in meaningful activities which will help in their cognitive stimulation. Currently, there are three providers for this service—Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA), Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society (THK) and NTUC Eldercare.

12.         Caregivers who require care for their loved ones on weekends can also consider the Centre-Based Weekend Respite Care service, which is currently available at eight centres located in various parts of Singapore including Sembawang, Bukit Batok, Tampines and Toa Payoh. This weekend respite service will be expanded to 10 centres next year and is expected to benefit more than 200 caregivers and their loved ones, providing peace of mind to caregivers that their loved one is cared for while they are away.

13.         For seniors with challenging behaviours, our Home Intervention teams comprising allied health professionals will conduct home visits to assess the clients’ living environment and find out the triggers for their difficult behaviour. The teams will also provide training and support for caregivers to learn how to manage and communicate with their loved ones. Caregivers who require this service may approach the Alzheimer’s Disease Association or Tsao Foundation.

Conclusion

14.         We have made progress in developing better support for dementia care over the last seven years and MOH is grateful for the support of many VWOs like Peacehaven for making these initiatives possible. While we may not be able to fully 'prevent' dementia, we are now better prepared to care for them.

15.         We will continue to develop and improve our care services to enable persons with dementia and caregivers lead a better quality of life at home. Caring for our elderly also takes collaborative effort from the community and I encourage everyone to play our part and work together. Together, we can build a more understanding society that is well-equipped to care for our seniors.

16.         On this note, I wish all of you a joyous Mid-Autumn Festival in advance.

Thank you.

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