Easier healthcare access for dementia patients living in central Singapore

SINGAPORE - Dementia patients living in the central area of Singapore will soon have easier access to medical care, as 12 general practitioners (GPs) in the region will be managing patients referred by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) from November.

The move is part of TTSH's Geriatric Integrated Network for Dementia (GerIND), which was announced on Tuesday at its annual World Alzheimer's Week event. The network began as a partnership between TTSH and Ang Mo Kio (AMK) Polyclinic for a pilot programme to bring dementia care to the heartlands, with 150 patients discharged to AMK Polyclinic's Dementia Clinic for continued care since 2012.

It has since expanded to involve other groups including the Care for the Elderly Foundation, the Agency for Integrated Care, and GPs with the aim of providing community-based care for patients and their caregivers, and increasing overall dementia care capacity and access. Doctors at the AMK Polyclinic, who receive training from TTSH specialists, will also begin diagnosing new cases of dementia and referring them directly to their Dementia Clinic in the coming months.

According to interim results of a study released by by the Health Services and Outcomes Research unit, the National Healthcare Group's research arm, patients have saved an average of $6,700 a year on medical fees and related expenses after being discharged from TTSH to the AMK Polyclinics' Dementia Clinic, and caregivers reported significantly less stress.

The programmes under the new integrated network will free TTSH to see an additional 500 to 600 dementia patients a year, while allowing stable patients to receive care closer to home, said GerIND Programme Director Dr Chong Mei Sian.

"What we're trying to build is a network and philosophy of a many helping hands approach," she said.

Central Singapore district Mayor Denise Phua said at the event that as the district has the highest number of senior citizens, the new integrated network makes a significant difference in the lives of many dementia patients and their caregivers. "When you interact with people with dementia, sometimes they're already a shell. But the key thing to remember is while they cannot remember us, we must remember them."