SINGAPORE: A new campaign, called "Forget Us Not", was launched by the Lien Foundation and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) on Wednesday (Jan 20). Through it, they hope a dementia-friendly community could help more such patients avoid living in institutions.
Under the campaign, organisers said a handbook will be used to teach organisations, schools and members of the public how to recognise common symptoms of dementia. Some signs to note include if an elderly person has difficulty getting around on their own, or if they forget to pay for a purchase. Participants will also be taught what to do in these situations, they said.
Additionally, interested parties can attend an hour-long session at KTPH.
For example, participants will learn what they should do if they encounter an elderly person who has difficulty in getting around.
"Being able to upkeep their usual lifestyle - which would involve regular engagement with people in the community, doing things that they like and are familiar with - will help to maintain their independence and in so doing, there is good hope that it can ameliorate the disease progression," said Dr Phillip Yap, Director of KTPH's Geriatric Centre.
Caregivers said that community support also helps families of those suffering from dementia.
"My mother was lost in the neighbourhood once and I could not find her. In the end, my neighbour brought her home," said 65-year-old Mok Leng Chan, who is a member of the KTPH Dementia Care Team, and also a caregiver for 16 years. "Now I find that people are more aware of what dementia is, they know that this is not normal ageing and that this is a disease so they will be more accepting."
EXTENDING THE PROJECT BEYOND YISHUN
Over the last six months, about 2,000 people and businesses within Yishun have participated in the educational talks on dementia and training sessions.
Yishun's Chong Pang area has been chosen as a dementia-friendly community, and KTPH has been working on fostering such an environment since end-2014. The hospital said the area was chosen as it has a high concentration of seniors - 1 of 4 residents is over the age of 65 - is near to the hospital and is also geographically enclosed.
KTPH is now working to extend the project to the rest of Yishun, and outreach efforts to raise awareness include bus ads, roadshows and two getais which will be held in March.
"With everyone chipping in, we hope Yishun can be a place where people with dementia feel included, respected and valued. Here, they can get around safely and continue to participate meaningfully in their usual routines because members of their community - be it a favourite neighbour, shopkeeper or local policeman - can understand and assist them," said Dr Yap.
The Forget Us Not organisers said their goal is to go beyond Yishun to reach at least 100 organisations and 10,000 Dementia Friends across Singapore by Sep 21, this year's World Alzheimer's Day.
According to statistics from the Institute of Mental Health, one in 10 people in Singapore aged 60 and above suffer from dementia. The disease affects half of those aged 85 and older. By 2030, the number of dementia sufferers in Singapore is expected to more than double to 103,000.