Centre boosts support for seniors, caregivers

A singalong session at the Home Nursing Foundation's Wellness@Hougang centre yesterday. Ms Michelle Lee (in black), founder and CEO of I'm Soul Inc, is seen here interacting with a senior citizen using a Soundbeam device, which detects movement and t
A singalong session at the Home Nursing Foundation's Wellness@Hougang centre yesterday. Ms Michelle Lee (in black), founder and CEO of I'm Soul Inc, is seen here interacting with a senior citizen using a Soundbeam device, which detects movement and translates it into music, encouraging people to move.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Sitting idle at home is unthinkable for retiree Allan Thia Tian Siong.

Since September last year, the active 82-year-old, who lives with his wife and daughter, has been making the short commute from his home to Hougang Community Club daily to meet seniors like himself.

Yesterday, he was among 25 elderly folk who turned up for the official opening of the Home Nursing Foundation's (HNF) first senior care centre.

Called Wellness @ Hougang, it aims to help meet the growing demand for day-care and dementia care facilities for senior citizens, whose caregivers often have to work as well. The centre, which began operating in September, is also a safe haven for people like the sociable Mr Thia.

"I enjoy singing, dancing and karaoke. I cannot do these things alone at home. My wife is a homely person, but I need to be out meeting people," he said.

Mr Thia, who fondly remembers tunes by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, uses the dementia care facilities at the centre, which opens daily from 7am to 7pm.

Modelled after a tea house in a garden, the centre has an indoor garden with synthetic grass, a relaxation room and space for exercise designed for the elderly. It also offers a caregiving support and training programme to equip family members and domestic helpers with skills to care for the elderly.

Permanent Secretary for Health Chan Yeng Kit, who officially opened the centre, said community eldercare services were essential for Singapore's ageing population.

"There is value in service providers offering services across different settings so that seniors can more seamlessly access appropriate services when they need it.

"For example, seniors attending HNF's daycare are assured that if they become more frail, they will be able to benefit from HNF's home care services seamlessly," he added.

During a guided tour of the facility, he noted that manpower concerns in the nursing and support care sector and operational cost were challenges facing eldercare institutions like HNF.

 
 
 
 

The ministry will look into giving more support to eldercare institutions in the future, he said.

HNF, founded in 1976, offers home care services and supports about 4,000 patients in Singapore.

Ms Priscylla Shaw, president of its management board, said the centre is to help ensure seniors do not remain isolated at home.

HNF plans to open another senior care centre in Buangkok in the third quarter of this year, she added.

The Institute of Mental Health reports that half of Singapore's seniors older than 85 have dementia. This worked out to an estimated 82,000 people in 2018, it added. By 2030, the pool is expected to swell to between 130,000 and 140,000.

A national survey on dementia has found that three in four with the condition feel lonely and rejected. The survey, done in January last year by Singapore Management University and the Alzheimer's Disease Association, also showed that nearly 30 per cent of caregivers feel embarrassed when they are in public with a loved one who has dementia.

Fees for monthly day-care services range from $100 to $1,200.

The monthly fees for community rehabilitation service, which promotes community engagement and socialisation among seniors, range between $45 and $675.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Centre boosts support for seniors, caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe