New ID memo for those with dementia amid circuit breaker

The Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) is providing people with dementia and their caregivers with a letter that they can show enforcement officers or the police if they inadvertently violate circuit breaker measures in place here.

This ADA Memo will state the person's name and his caregiver details and explain that, due to dementia, he may lack the ability to understand and comply with safety measures such as safe distancing, wearing a mask and not gathering at public spaces.

Enforcement officers who read the memo will then take into consideration the person's condition, but it will not provide immunity to any penalties if assessed to be necessary, said ADA and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) yesterday.

The memo is part of an initiative by the two agencies to support people with dementia and their families during the Covid-19 period. The initiative is supported by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, which is in charge of safe distancing enforcement at public spaces and in Housing Board estates.

"We have been listening to persons living with dementia and their caregivers, and we fully understand that it can be a challenge to adhere strictly to the circuit breaker rules," said ADA chief executive officer Jason Foo.

"This personalised ADA Memo will identify them as being registered with ADA, and appeals for patience, support and understanding from enforcement officers in the event that they are approached for breaking the circuit breaker rules inadvertently."

There are at least 82,000 people diagnosed with dementia here, according to a 2018 study by the Institute of Mental Health.

Those clinically diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers can apply for the ADA Memo here or through their community care provider. ADA aims to contact the applicant within two days for verification and send the memo in a PDF file via e-mail immediately.

ADA and AIC have also shared resources with enforcement agencies on how to recognise the signs, symptoms and behaviour of people with dementia, as well as how to engage them with empathy and tact.

Enforcement officers have also been familiarised with two other identification materials a person with dementia can produce: the Safe Return Card by the National Council of Social Services, and the In Case of Emergency, Dial (ICED) Sticker by AIC.

Those with these identifiers need not apply for the ADA Memo.

  • 82,000

  • Number of people diagnosed with dementia here, according to a 2018 Institute of Mental Health study.

As of April 1, there were 2,318 Safe Return Cards among those in the community. However, as applications for the Safe Return Cards are not being processed during the circuit breaker period, the ADA Memo is an alternative.

AIC chief executive officer Tan Kwang Cheak said: "We hope it will relieve the caregivers' stress in caring for persons with dementia during this period, and avoiding unpleasant situations for their loved ones outside their homes."

Ms Cheryl Tan, a caregiver to her 70-year-old mother with dementia, said the ADA Memo is a step in the right direction to create awareness, especially with the authorities, on the difficulties and needs that caregivers are facing during this period.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2020, with the headline 'New ID memo for those with dementia amid circuit breaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe