Think outside the box to improve eldercare

I was delighted to read that Peacehaven Nursing Home's Jade Circle facility project for dementia patients is being revived (Peacehaven nursing home gets nod; July 7), and that St John's-St Margaret's Church is building an integrated facility featuring a nursing home, a senior day care centre and a childcare centre.

Clearly, there is a growing awareness of the needs of the elderly in Singapore.

The demand for such facilities will always far outstrip supply, and we will always have to play "catch-up", as the needs of today's seniors are different from tomorrow's.

We must start thinking outside the box.

My friends and I have talked about a "co-housing" arrangement, where three or four of us could all live on the same floor in a block to keep an eye on one another.

Paid carers could also be hired and shared among us.

This would allow for privacy, the ability to share resources, and greater social interaction in a safe space.

Such an arrangement is especially pertinent to single or childless seniors. To this end, I hope the Housing Board will consider allowing "flat swops".

I am also concerned that doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers seem to shy away from the geriatric sector.

Perhaps this is because of the lack of a career path for them.

They need to know that even though they do menial work feeding and cleaning the elderly today, they could potentially become a supervisor, then coordinator of various types of elderly services, and eventually manage a nursing home or service.

It is neither cost-effective nor sustainable to rely on cheap imported labour.

I know too many professionals who have had to quit their jobs prematurely to supervise these helpers.

We need to ensure that when we age, we will not be reduced to languishing in a wheelchair, and being cared for by staff on minimum wage.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Think outside the box to improve eldercare'. Print Edition | Subscribe