Important for dementia patients to be in a familiar home environment: Indranee Rajah

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah chatting with clients of the Alzheimer's Disease Association on Feb 22, 2017.
Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah chatting with clients of the Alzheimer's Disease Association on Feb 22, 2017. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - The Republic has to find ways for dementia patients to remain in their home environment, said Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law.

"Many of them actually feel most comfortable in familiar surroundings, that means at home," said Ms Indranee, alongside a visit to the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) on Wednesday (Feb 22) morning.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Indranee said that finding ways to let them stay at home, rather than, say, a nursing home, include supporting their caregivers and allowing caregivers to take time off, and educating the public on dementia.

Hence this year's Budget is setting aside $160 million over five years for community health efforts, as announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday. Part of the efforts include building more dementia-friendly communities.

In Singapore, one in 10 people aged 60 and above has dementia. The condition strikes half of those aged 85 and beyond, according to findings released by the Institute of Mental Health in 2015.

Last year, three dementia-friendly towns were launched in Yishun, Hong Kah North and Macpherson. Community partners and the Government had banded together to train residents and businesses to recognise signs of dementia and help those who might have them.

Yishun was the first dementia-friendly community here. It was set up by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Lien Foundation, with 61 partner organisations including McDonald's and Sheng Siong Supermarket.

So, for example, if the coffee shop staff know that an elderly person has dementia, staff will be more patient if the person cannot pay, said Ms Indranee.

"It is about trying to make sure that you've the things in place so that the people who need help know where to go and can get access to it," she said.