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Yishun nursing home first 24/7 go-to point for dementia patients

Yishun nursing home first 24/7 go-to point for dementia patients
The Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home, a five-minute walk from Yishun MRT Station, is equipped with a nursing team of 108 who are trained to calm persons with dementia down and help them identify and contact their next of kin. Photo: Wong Pei Ting

Yishun nursing home first 24/7 go-to point for dementia patients

SINGAPORE — Besides police stations, those helping lost seniors with dementia find their way home now have a 24/7 facility they can take them to.

The Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home was yesterday declared a “dementia go-to point”, making it the first nursing home to become part of Singapore’s safe-return system for those with dementia.

There are already 57 other go-to points across the island, but none of them are open round the clock.

Sree Narayana Mission’s 224-bed home, a five-minute walk from Yishun MRT Station, is equipped with a nursing team of 108 who are trained to calm persons with dementia down and help them identify and contact their next of kin.

The team will tap their database or work with the neighbourhood police post to do so. As the dementia patients wait to be reunited with their family, the team will attend to their immediate needs, such as food or a bed to rest on.

“If you tell a person with dementia, ‘I’m going to bring you to the police station’, (he or she) will actually run away,” said Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home head of nursing Cecilia Teo.

“(As) the centre for them ... (people) deposit the person with us, and we’re the ones who actually assist them to identify their next of kin.”

As a go-to point, the nursing home also provides dementia-specific training for maids and carers, as well as brochures that can help seniors cope with the onset of memory loss, among other dementia symptoms.

As the number of individuals in Singapore aged 65 and above will double by 2030, the aim is to convert more nursing homes and other facilities into safe-return points, Senior Minister of State (Health) Chee Hong Tat told reporters yesterday.

“We do need to spread this (initiative) out, especially to estates with a higher proportion of seniors,” he said.

Dementia now strikes one in 10 people here aged 60 and above and half of those aged 85 and beyond, according to an Institute of Mental Health study in 2015.

“We’re very happy to have the support from a nursing home,” said Mr Chee, who attended Sree Narayana Mission’s Chathayam celebrations.

“Because (it) is open round the clock, seniors (can) come to this place to be looked after, while the home will help to contact their caregivers. So this is a safe place for them.”

Sree Narayana Mission, a charity established here in 1948 and named after a South Indian philosopher and social reformer, serves about 50 dementia patients at its nursing home.

It also runs two eldercare centres in Yishun and Woodlands, which offer day-care programmes for seniors with dementia, and manages Meranti Home, a welfare home for destitute males in need of psychiatric care.

Yishun, dubbed Singapore’s first dementia-friendly community last year, now houses eight dementia go-to points. The town has citizens on patrol, grassroots leaders and volunteers, students and staff of some businesses who are trained to identify and communicate with dementia sufferers.

Since then, Hong Kah, MacPherson, Bedok and Queenstown have also become dementia-friendly, Mr Chee said in an update.

“Dementia isn’t something that you can completely prevent, but with proper intervention, good healthcare, good family support, good community support, I think we’re able to provide a better and safer environment for our seniors,” he added.