St Joseph's Home reopens with more elder-friendly facilities after $62m renovation

St Joseph's Home's new facilities include a unit dedicated specifically to mobile residents with dementia.
St Joseph's Home's new facilities include a unit dedicated specifically to mobile residents with dementia.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - St Joseph's Home celebrated its 40th anniversary and official relaunch on Monday (March 19) after a $62 million renovation.

While the home continues to offer nursing and hospice services, it now has new facilities that cater to elderly residents who have more specialised needs.

One of these is an indoor pool for hydrotherapy, or water therapy, which has been incorporated into rehabilitation programmes to help the elderly avoid any discomfort or pain from exercising on hard ground.

Madam Theresa Lam, 84, who has chronic arthritis in both her knees, has difficulty walking and performing daily activities.

But as one of the five residents who have been receiving water therapy, she feels it has helped her. "Now I can turn around in bed, when I previously could not."

Other new facilities include a unit dedicated to mobile residents with dementia. It focuses on allowing residents to go about their regular activities instead of treating them as patients.

Ms Dolores Anuber, 42, a nurse who has been working at St Joseph's Home for 15 years, said the unit has improved the quality of care for the residents.

"Previously we would do everything for them. Now we can give them the authority to do things they still can do," said Ms Anuber.

Madam Theresa Lam with physiotherapist Jessica Ng (right) and therapy assistant Letchumy Selvaraj at the hydrotherapy pool. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

These residents even join volunteers to tend to a vegetable garden in the courtyard.

The board chairman of Catholic Welfare Services, Mr Thomas Tan, envisions St Joseph's Home as a "home of the future", upgrading itself constantly to meet the changing needs of Singapore's ageing population.

After the renovation, bed areas are more spacious and personalised, and there is a lot of natural light.

Mr Tham Ying Wai, 63, was initially opposed to the idea of admitting his 84-year-old mother into the hospice wing.

"I felt like I was signing her death warrant," he said.

But he changed his mind after seeing an improvement in her.

Mr Tham Ying Wai visiting his mother Mdm Wong Kwah Fong at the hospice wing of St Joseph's Home. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

His mother, Madam Wong Kwah Fong, suffers from terminal kidney failure. Such patients do not usually survive for more than 10 days, noted Mr Tham.

But she has gone past 40 days, her appetite has improved and she sometimes breaks into smiles, he added.

The home's family living concept, with communal dining areas and recreational space, also helps residents feel at home.

Mr Tham said he hopes the stigma associated with hospice care can be dispelled. He also wishes to see more help for families that want to engage hospice services but are financially unable to do so.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor gave the assurance of the Government's support in enhancing eldercare services during her speech at the home's reopening on Monday.

"The Community Silver Trust (CST) provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to eligible voluntary welfare organisations providing long-term care services. At Budget 2018, we announced a $300 million top-up to the CST. Providers can also now tap on CST to match donations raised for active ageing programmes to support more community initiatives," Dr Khor said.

The facade of St Joseph's Home, after a $62 million renovation. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

A childcare centre located within the home is also a key feature in its vision for the future, as it functions to bridge the inter-generational divide.

Interaction with the elderly is part of the childcare centre's curriculum, which aims to accustom children to the idea of ageing, and inculcate respect for their elders. It was launched in August last year.

"Our young people will be taught humane values on how to love, how to feel, and how to understand those who are elderly," said the guest of honour, Archbishop William Goh.