To simplify things for dementia-struck citizens and the general public, the Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home was recently declared a “dementia go-to point”. This marks the first nursing home to become part of Singapore’s “safe-return system’ for citizens with dementia.

At present, 57 other similar go-to points are already up and running in Singapore – however, none of them offers a 24-hour service.

Centre to temporarily shelter and cater to immediate needs of dementia patients

At the establishment, a nursing team of 108 trained professionals in dementia care can aid in calming dementia patients down and helping them contact their next of kin. In order to do this, the team will tap their database or collaborate with the local police post.

While dementia patients await their families, this centre aims to cater to their immediate individual needs – e.g. providing them with food and a bed to rest on in their 224-bed facility. The Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home is also at a convenient location – a mere five-minute walk from Yishun MRT Station.

Cecilia Teo, head of nursing at the nursing home explained that “If you tell a person with dementia, ‘I’m going to bring you to the police station’, (he or she) will actually run away. (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.”

In addition, the nursing home also serves as a community resource centre by providing dementia-specific training for maids and carers. It is also equipped with brochures that can help senior citizens deal with memory loss onset and other dementia symptoms.

Minister: More safe-return points needed to promote a better environment

Speaking at the launch, Senior Minister of State Health Chee Hong Tat said that due to the projected doubling in those aged 65 and above by 2030, the conversion of more nursing homes and facilities to safe-return points are in the pipeline.

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

An Institute of Mental Health study done in 2015 shows that one in 10 people aged 60 and above and 50% of those aged 85 and beyond are living with dementia.

“We’re very happy to have the support from a nursing home,” continued Chee, “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, established in 1948, caters to roughly 50 dementia patients at its nursing home. Moreover, it manages two eldercare centres in Yishun and Woodlands offering day-care programmes for dementia-struck seniors.

In 2016, Yishun was labelled Singapore’s first dementia-friendly community. To date, it holds eight dementia go-to points. The town has citizens patrolling and volunteers, students and staff of some businesses who are trained to recognise and communicate with dementia victims.

Mr Shanavas Vijayan, president of the Sree Narayana Mission remarked that “we were never closed off to the community, we hold events and we know we have the facilities and the capabilities to take care of people with dementia. We are really happy with today's launch, to help support the community.”

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

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