Single-bed nursing homes

Put patient care front and centre

The Lien Foundation, Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation and Salvation Army's Peacehaven home are to be applauded for their efforts to improve the quality of nursing home care for patients with dementia ("'$8 more a day to stay in single-bed nursing home'"; last Friday).

As someone in his 50s, I have a keen interest in this issue.

The initiative to provide dementia-afflicted patients with single or twin-sharing rooms is not without basis. It is modelled on best practices from Japan, the United States and Britain. It demonstrates an admirable will to break free of mindsets as to what is possible.

Dementia is not age-related forgetfulness. It is an incurable disease that is not part of normal ageing. It is a debilitating illness to both body and mind.

As an active volunteer at a local community hospital, I know that dementia patients' behaviour negatively affects the quality of care for other patients within the same ward, including their sleep. The disruptive patient is not to blame. It is the disease that is the cause.

For such a patient, the need for a single room cannot be equated to a demand for luxury accommodation, as the patient does not realise that he is living "in the lap of luxury".

There is a need to acknowledge the disease afflicting the patient and not deny him subsidies. In cost evaluation, it is imperative that we not place myopic attention on the direct cost of providing single-room facilities. Benefits derived from improved care for the patient, caregivers, family, healthcare workers and other patients must all be factored into the equation.

Companies and the Singapore economy could also benefit from improved productivity when a worker knows his family member is getting enhanced care.

It is encouraging that the Ministry of Health has indicated that it will discuss the findings with Lien Foundation and understand the assumptions behind the report's economic analysis. The dialogue should begin with consensus on the disease-specific needs of dementia patients, predicated on best practices at home and abroad.

The care of the afflicted patient must be front and centre. Financial challenges, scalability and even operational challenges are not impossible mountains to scale.

Nicholas Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Put patient care front and centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe