Old can be gold for dementia patients

Society for the Aged Sick residents Hong Poh Choo (far left), 73, and Tan Swee Hiang, 83, at the newly launched therapy room. The facility, featuring items the elderly can connect with, is meant to help boost memory recall and retention.
Society for the Aged Sick residents Hong Poh Choo (far left), 73, and Tan Swee Hiang, 83, at the newly launched therapy room. The facility, featuring items the elderly can connect with, is meant to help boost memory recall and retention.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

New therapy room at Hougang nursing home recreates a living room from the past

Residents with dementia are being invited to go back in time with a new reminiscence therapy room at a nursing home for the elderly in Hougang.

Located on the fifth floor of the Society for the Aged Sick (SAS), the purpose-built 696 sq ft room resembles a typical living room of the 1960s or 1970s, complete with vintage memorabilia such as a gramophone, old crockery and a sewing machine.

It is hoped the contents will jog patients' memories of life as it was back then, an exercise which could be both stimulating and soothing.

Co-designed with the National Healthcare Group and unveiled yesterday, this is the SAS' first foray into reminiscence therapy, which explores a patient's experiences and history using prompts such as music and photographs.

One wall is adorned with a collection of heritage photographs, depicting scenes such as Samsui women at work and the bustling road outside the old MPH building.

A quarter of the 400 residents at the SAS suffer from dementia.

Senior consultant Adeline Chuo from Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Department of Geriatric Medicine, who was consulted on the three-month project, said: "The room creates a familiar environment that keeps patients calm...

"It makes the life of carers and patients more pleasant and more manageable.

"The anecdotal result we have seen is that when patients go there, you can reduce the medication (dosage) because they are more relaxed, and you realise that they sleep better at night because they are doing activities (at the room) in the day."

Madam Tan Swee Hiang, 83, said her favourite part of the room is a glass cabinet which houses old knick-knacks such as Coca-Cola bottles and bus tickets. She said: "I remember using bus tickets like these to travel to work."

The SAS conducts hour-long therapy sessions that incorporate various fixtures of the room , including a "cooking station" where residents can role-play in preparing their favourite dishes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Old can be gold for dementia patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe