New course by Hua Mei to teach participants how to run and set up home care teams

SINGAPORE - Medical institutions can learn how to run more sustainable home care services, thanks to a new course started by one of Singapore's home care pioneers Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing (HMCSA), a Tsao Foundation initiative.

Previously, training was more skills-based,, but the new course has a broader scope and teaches medical staff how to run and set up home-based primary care, said Dr Ng Wai Chong, the centre's Medical Director, who came up with the course.

Singapore is encouraging home care for seniors, so that they can age comfortably in familiar environments. Home care also plays a part in easing the hospital bed crunch.

But it is not a one-man task - it usually involves a team of doctors, nurses and social workers looking after a patient's medical and psychosocial needs.

"Caring as a team is usually where people trip up," said Dr Ng.

"If there is no proper planning, you might be sending in doctors when nurses can do the job," he said.

"Or care might be fragmented and too disease-focused, when the answer lies in looking at the social situation of the patient."

Hua Mei's holistic approach looks at everything from end-of-life conversations to the caregivers' health.

"From start to end, we teach them how to pre-empt situations so unnecessary resources aren't deployed," said Dr Ng.

With 21 years of home-based primary care experience, the Hua Mei team has seen everything: from individuals with so much medicine that they give up on taking it, to dementia patients who live in insanitary conditions.

"Knowing the ground, we can give our participants an idea of what funds and community resources to tap on," said Dr Ng.

The course, which is run by Hua Mei's training arm, is called "Advanced Primary Care for Homebound Elders".

This is believed to the first industry-wide training course teaching institutions how to set up and run home care teams.

There are different modules for doctors, nurses and social workers, with an attachment component at the end.

A total of 38 participants took part in its first run which started on Wednesday.

Said St Andrew's Community Hospital occupational therapist Ms Loh Wei Chin, 32: "I've been searching for a course on home-based primary care and this is a good answer. I hope it can teach me how to co-ordinate care better."

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