Person-centric care must be sustainable

I agree with Associate Professor Gerald Koh and Dr Philip Yap on the need for a holistic and person-centric dementia care philosophy in our nursing homes, focusing on respect for the residents' dignity, value and personhood ("Would you want to grow old in today's nursing homes?"; Jan 5).

But it is equally important to recognise that greater space and single- or twin-room designs are but one of many enablers.

There are alternative ways to provide dignified person-centric care, without the inevitable increase in demands on space and manpower.

In Singapore, where space is at a premium, and shortage in healthcare manpower a perennial problem, such considerations are critical.

The challenges of single- or twin-room models, in terms of space, social isolation, safety surveillance and demands on manpower, cannot be ignored and have been highlighted by other experts ("Boost dementia-friendly landscape in nursing homes" by Dr Joshua Kua Hai Kiat; Jan 7).

The harsh reality is that dementia is no longer a rare disease.

In Singapore, with our fast-ageing population, the estimated number of people with dementia is expected to grow from 45,000 last year to 103,000 in 2030.

Therefore, a more pragmatic and balanced approach may be to strive for person-centric yet sustainable solutions ("Balancing various needs, concerns" by Miss Cheryl Chua Xing Jun; Jan 7) .

For instance, instead of looking at single- or twin-room wards, we can consider innovative designs that provide more privacy for residents using the same amount of space per bed.

We can also strive to foster personal identity, while encouraging our patients to interact more meaningfully with other residents.

We are also seeking better care models with improved facilities for rehabilitation and continuum of care.

Our journey of care for dementia patients is evolving. Dialogue among the Ministry of Health, care providers and innovators is dynamic and healthy.

Together, we can co-design person-centred care models that are sustainable and scalable within our limited healthcare resources.

Philip Choo Wee Jin (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Person-centric care must be sustainable'. Print Edition | Subscribe