It was a simple cabinet beside his bed at Lions Home for the Elders but Mr Tan Kim Chai, 68, is proud to show off its contents - in particular, a neatly folded stack of clothes that sits on the bottom shelf.
Most nursing homes issue a standard uniform or pyjamas for residents, but at Lions Home, they can don their own outfits or wear donated clothes.
"I feel more comfortable in my own clothes," said Mr Tan, who had the apparel brought over from his nearby flat in Bishan. "I also have my own shoes and slippers."
The nursing home, which runs two facilities - in Bishan and Bedok - started this initiative back in 2001 to "make care less institutional", said Ms Doreen Lye, the home's chief executive officer.
In line with the roll-out of the Enhanced Nursing Home Standards last April, it has now put in place a more systematic workflow for linen management. There is also a formal training programme in place for laundry staff. They are briefed on areas such as hand hygiene, setting up of collection points at wards and recommended cleaning agents to meet infection control standards.
The laundry operations cost about $10,000 a year, said a spokesman for the home. It covers the purchase of washing chemicals, maintenance of equipment and other logistics.
Ms Lye said patient safety and hygiene take precedence over factors like saving water and electricity. While most items can be put through a normal wash, some that require disinfecting are first soaked in a solution, then washed separately at a water temperature of 90 deg C. "Even if the machine is not fully loaded, we will maintain the separation... We cannot compromise on infection control."
Some residents would accessorise to match their clothes, such as wearing matching earrings, bangles and hair clips.
MS DOREEN LYE, Lions Home for the Elders' chief executive officer.
There is also a protocol at every stage, from collecting the soiled laundry to sorting, tagging and transporting the washed items.
Staff have to go by a designated route when taking dirty items to the basement where they are washed. They take a different path when carrying the clean laundry back to the wards. This is to avoid contamination.
"People think that laundry is very simple, but it's not," said Mr Joselito Iporac, assistant director of nursing.
There is also, for instance, the challenge of returning the items to the rightful owner. The Lions Home at Bishan has 203 residents, while the Bedok facility has 117.
Every day, the Bishan facility handles about 400 pieces of laundry, excluding bed sheets, said Mr Iporac.
Ms Lye added that while the home currently uses sew-on tags to identify the clothing, it is considering switching to electronic tags.
Besides comfort, wearing their own clothes helps residents to express their personality and feel more independent.
"Some residents would accessorise to match their clothes, such as wearing matching earrings, bangles and hair clips," said Ms Lye.
One resident has several changes of clothes a day, putting on a different outfit for dinner and outings. "The sense of dressing remains in some of them, even if they have cognitive issues," Ms Lye said.
These days, Lions Home no longer gives uniforms to residents.
Said Ms Lye: "However, for residents who prefer to wear clothes provided by the home instead of their own, we will respect their wishes."
Poon Chian Hui