Dementia-friendly community in Hong Kah North

Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Khor (front) at the launch of Singapore's second dementia- friendly community, Hong Kah North, yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Khor (front) at the launch of Singapore's second dementia- friendly community, Hong Kah North, yesterday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Volunteers in second such neighbourhood trained to spot signs of illness and offer help

At times, an old woman buys items from the supermarket where Ms Sree Devi works - only for her son to return them a day later.

While the 41-year-old retail assistant was puzzled at first, she soon found that the woman had dementia and was buying items she already had at home.

"It was all kinds of things - fish, poultry, even toiletries," Ms Devi said. "We just tried to be more patient and understanding."

She is one of more than 7,000 people who have been trained to spot the tell-tale signs of dementia and lend a hand where needed. Among them, 139 were trained in Hong Kah North, which was officially announced as Singapore's second dementia-friendly community by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday.

The first, a pilot project in Chong Pang, was started by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and the Lien Foundation, in collaboration with the Agency for Integrated Care.

As Singapore's population ages, it is important that people know about dementia and how to help those with the condition, said Dr Khor, MP for Hong Kah North.

"Everybody has a role to play in providing an environment that is elder-friendly and dementia- friendly," she said.

Under the scheme, volunteers are trained to look out for those with the symptoms of dementia - such as aimless wandering - and offer help. For example, they could take those who seem lost to one of five designated Go-To Points. These touchpoints, which are located in places such as community clubs and family service centres, will link those with dementia with their caregivers.

Other dementia-friendly communities to be rolled out later include Bedok, MacPherson and Queenstown.

One person who welcomes the new initiative is Mr Abdul Ghani Haji Hamid, 64, whose 84-year-old mother has the condition.

"It's good that young people know more about dementia," he said. "Sometimes, they're scared of my mother when they see her, but now hopefully they will understand."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'Dementia-friendly community in Hong Kah North'. Print Edition | Subscribe