Efforts towards building a dementia-friendly society

A sticker at McDonald’s indicating that the outlet in Yishun is dementia-friendly.
A sticker at McDonald’s indicating that the outlet in Yishun is dementia-friendly. PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

We thank Mr Francis Cheng for his feedback ("Go further to help people with dementia"; last Thursday).

The Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) agrees with most of what Mr Cheng said. There are areas that we can address, as a community, to support people with dementia and their caregivers, so that they can continue living and be cared for at home and in the community.

However, people with dementia should be discouraged from driving, for safety reasons.

Last October, ADA organised a symposium with the theme, Towards a Dementia-Friendly Singapore. As a lead-up to the symposium, ADA organised a series of focus group discussions involving a wide spectrum of people in the community, including people with dementia and family caregivers, to exchange ideas, provide feedback and propose recommendations to make Singapore a dementia-friendly community.

Recommendations from the discussions were presented at the symposium, and ADA is now working with the Agency for Integrated Care and several other partners on these recommendations.

For example, we are establishing and promoting more dementia-friendly communities (DFC) in Singapore. The objective of this project is similar to what Mr Cheng suggested in his letter, that is, to support and help people with dementia in public areas, shops, hawker centres, banks and public transport.

The community needs to be trained and be aware of and able to recognise people with dementia in their midst, so that they can extend the help required or be a bit more tolerant when dealing with such people.

With greater awareness and understanding of dementia, this will hopefully remove the societal stigma and foster a more inclusive society, which will allow people with dementia to continue contributing and stay integrated.

As part of the DFC initiative, we hope to recruit and train members of the public to be Dementia Friends, who can assist people with dementia. Recruitment and training of members of the public as Dementia Friends is ongoing.

This Dementia Friends movement has been highly successful in Britain and Japan, and we hope that it will take off in Singapore as well.

As we have more Dementia Friends in Singapore, we will have more people in the community who are able and willing to help people with dementia and their families.

We hope Mr Cheng will be our star Dementia Friend.

Jason Foo
Chief Executive
Alzheimer's Disease Association

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'Efforts towards building a dementia-friendly society'. Print Edition | Subscribe