Dementia is a condition that involves the progressive degeneration of neural or brain tissues. This results in patients presenting with memory loss and difficulty performing activities of daily living, such as self-care. It affects the elderly population, but it is crucial to know that it is not a normal part of aging. About 1 out of 6 elderly Singaporeans develop dementia or 5.6% of the adult population aged 60 and above.
Once diagnosed, most persons with Dementia would tend to develop feelings of seclusion and loneliness due to the stigma accompanying the diagnosis. Persons with dementia need to live in an inclusive, dementia-friendly inclusive society wherein their condition is entirely accepted, and they can integrate and thrive well in the community.
Here is some useful information to help you navigate Dementia-friendly Singapore.
A Dementia Friendly Community is an initiative created to provide support and care to persons with dementia and their caregivers. In these communities, residents and local business owners are well-equipped with readiness and knowledge as to what Dementia is and how they can help the elderly.
Currently, there are six communities established. Their focus is to provide support, care, and respect to the elderlies, helping them remain strong and empowered as they go through their lives dealing with this chronic condition.
Singapore, one of the most liveable locations in the world, currently has a rapidly aging population, with the numbers hitting 900,000 by the year 2030, and consequentially, a projected number of 103,000 elderly persons will get diagnosed with Dementia. In response, Dementia Friendly Communities are committed to helping the early detection of the condition in the elderly.
Early detection is essential to creating a plan of action for patient management. Raising awareness and understanding through Dementia Guides, which are readily accessible for reference, is an effective way of helping ramp up detection and diagnosing. Staff assigned in the communities are all assured to be prepared and knowledgeable about handling persons with dementia.
DFCs are also committed to building more communities, encouraging more individuals to join the cause, and providing unwavering support to persons with Dementia and their caregivers. Lastly, these communities are committed to integrating technology which strengthens the connections between Dementia Friends, persons with Dementia, and their caregivers.
In Dementia Friendly Communities, community workers, local business owners, community partners, and friendly residents act as “lookouts” whenever they encounter a person with Dementia or when there is a call for help to find a missing relative or patient. In addition, residents of DFCs, and other able bodies, are trained and provided with guides to help them reduce the stigma, understand Dementia, and how to treat persons with Dementia lies with the utmost care, respect, and patience.
To equip facilities located in DFCs, GTP or Go-To-Points are available where trained staff are present to assist persons with Dementia and to reunite them back to their relatives or caregivers safely. These GTPs also act as centres for resources, providing valuable resources and events to promote Dementia Awareness.
With the advent of technology, a mobile application called “Dementia Friends” was launched and became open to individuals interested in helping and supporting this advocacy. The mobile application was thrown to the public in October 2018 as part of the Dementia Friendly Singapore Initiative.
The launch was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health, Dr Amy Khor. There are about 12,230 registered friends on the application, with 388 elderlies helped. Push notifications are being sent by the app whenever there is a need for a Friend to be on the lookout for missing persons with dementia. This mobile application makes their respective communities safe.
As for infrastructure, shared spaces were adapted to cater to the needs of our elderlies. For example, signages with icons and readable signs were put-up and shared areas, and streets were made safe by adding railings and smooth walkways, to name a few.
Easy access to care facilities is vital in deciding on the correct community for your elderly. In addition, medical services must be readily accessible when their need arises. Recreation facilities are also crucial so people with Dementia and the general elderly can remain active through active aging activities and stay healthy. Finally, cities must remain innovative and adaptable.
As defined by Alzheimer’s Disease International, a Dementia- friendly community is a safe space for people with Dementia and their caregivers. They are supported and empowered, increasing their self-worth and helping them break through barriers.
As presented by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, the DFC community framework has made it a point to make the empowerment and support of the elderlies their goal. Through this framework, it is hoped that proper support, early detection measures, and health-improvements activities are achieved.
Aside from building communities, projects dealing with ending the stigma about Dementia are being done. Partnerships and collaborations with organisations and institutions include the Centre of Liveable Cities and Town councils for infrastructure, The National Library Board and the National Heritage Board for the Arts.
As for health and wellness, Community Care partners also support Dementia Singapore, The Salvation Army-Peacehaven Bedok Day centre, Singapore Silver Ribbon, and the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities. The community framework also involves educating the public about Dementia.
Singapore university is one of this advocacy’s partners to educate the youth about the process of aging and for the child to interact with the elderly through different activities.
A dementia-friendly community (DFC) is one where people with dementia and their families feel supported and empowered. Neighbours, businesses, and any other social institutions present in the said community are helpful and empathetic towards the needs of people with dementia and make them feel included and not forgotten.
Here’s a list of dementia-friendly communities in Singapore:
Hong Kah North
Aside from the Dementia Friends Application, the AIC has launched post-diagnostic support for Dementia. As per the Agency of Integrated Care, support is highly given primarily to Newly Diagnosed Persons with Dementia and their caregivers. Once deemed eligible, help can be given to the Persons with Dementia and their caregivers for six months upon referral. For support and concerns, the AIC hotline and email are available on their website for help and other matters.
Safety is of utmost importance in the elderly, especially for persons with Dementia. Through the DFC, friends and partners help make these communities safe, with numerous Go-to-points established serving as safe havens for those who have gone missing.
The Dementia Friends app also sends out a push notification whenever a person has gone missing, alerting those registered in the application. Clearer signs, railings, etc. and other public space improvements contribute to the community’s overall safety.
Dementia Friendly Communities have created partnerships with care-related community services with the likes of the following that provide access to long term care services in old folks home Singapore or in their respective homes:
The Salvation Army-Peacehaven Bedok Day centre
Singapore Silver Ribbon, Jamiya Nursing Homes
Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities
Getting diagnosed with Dementia should not stop the elderly from living. Through the DFC, numerous seminars and activities are made available. These allow the elderly to stay physically and mentally active and interact with many kind-hearted individuals.
It is essential to remember that life is a cycle, and all of us will get older. As we all aspire for respect, we should always treat the elderly with utmost care and patience. As persons with Dementia come to terms with their condition, it should be a goal to regain their self-worth. Dementia is not the end of their lives, and being diagnosed with it should never be stigmatised.