Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the Official Opening of AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre @ Yishun

Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law

 

Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim,

Sr Parliamentary Secretary MSF and MOE

 

Ms Janice Ang, Chairman of AWWA

 

Mr Karthikeyan, Chief Executive Officer of AWWA

 

Distinguished Guests,

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

 

A very good morning to everyone.

           

I am indeed very pleased to join you today to celebrate the opening of AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre here at Yishun and to witness yet another milestone of AWWA.

           

Dementia describes a syndrome characterised by deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour, and the ability to carry out daily activities. It can be caused by a number of illnesses affecting the brain. In Singapore, 1 in 10 seniors aged 60 and above is estimated to have dementia. Given that 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above by 2030, this means the number of seniors with dementia is expected to rise as our population ages. Coping with dementia is a challenging journey, not just for persons with dementia, but also for their caregivers.  It is therefore critical that we support both groups. My late mother also suffered from dementia. I understand the challenges caregivers face and I strongly agree that they need support from society in order to provide quality care to their loved ones.

 

Dementia support has been a key component of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Community Mental Health Masterplan. To enhance care for persons with dementia, MOH has made services more accessible, including equipping caregivers with resources and training. The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) have also been raising awareness of dementia through outreach and public education. One such resource is the ‘Knowing Dementia’ toolkit for service providers, community partners, seniors and their caregivers. The toolkit includes a resource booklet for eldercare providers, an educational video, and information for seniors and their caregivers. For those who need access to information and referrals, AIC runs the Singapore Silver Line, a one-stop national eldercare helpline for caregivers and seniors.

 

AIC also works with social service partners to establish a network of community outreach teams, to reach out to those at risk of or those who may have mental health issues. These networks are important for early identification, basic emotional support, service linkage and preventive activities to reduce the risk of dementia.

 

AWWA runs an integrated assisted living “village” catering to the mental and physical health needs of seniors in Ang Mo Kio. Building on its good work, AWWA is now widening its community outreach and support by setting up a new Dementia Day Care Centre here at Yishun. Adopting the same person-centered care principles, the new Dementia Day Care Centre will enhance its focus on clients’ self-esteem and sense of well-being. At the Yishun centre, AWWA has also included a dedicated space where volunteers and staff will engage the clients in personal grooming to enhance their image, self-confidence and sense of dignity. The video we just watched struck a chord because it showed how our dementia friends can improve if there is support from the community.

 

One client who has benefited from the Centre’s services is Madam Teresa Scully. When Madam Scully, who is 87 years old, first attended AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre in August this year, her caregiver, Anita, was not accustomed to Madam Scully’s behaviour – one of which is her tendency to wash her hands frequently. It is true that our dementia friends are prone to repeated behavior. It takes a tremendous amount of patience to care for those with dementia. Through the various games and activities conducted at the Centre, Anita was able to build rapport with Madam Scully and learn to better manage her condition.

 

I am also happy to see that AWWA is part of the dementia care network in the North. This network allows for various partners to come together to discuss and develop ways to better support persons with dementia and their caregivers. AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre in Yishun is also part of the Dementia-Friendly Community initiative, which aims to support and assist persons with dementia and create a culture of neighbourliness and inclusivity in the community. As part of this initiative, AWWA’s Dementia Day Care Centre will serve as a Go-To Point to help seniors locate their loved ones or find their way home, if they have difficulty doing so. This is an important feature. We do not want friends and family members with dementia to become prisoners of their condition. Neither do we want caregivers to become prisoners. I watched a documentary about how a village in Japan rallies around to care for persons with dementia. They generously allow those with dementia to shop at their supermarkets, dine at their cafes, subsequently settling the bill with the family members. More importantly, they keep a look out for their movement to ensure their safety and they get home safe.

 

Beyond AWWA’s efforts, we must work together to create an inclusive society, where persons with dementia and their caregivers can feel supported, safe and assured. We can all play our part by contributing in different ways – be it volunteering with social service organisations like AWWA, or being patient and kind when encountering persons with dementia, or simply treating others with respect. From grassroots organisations to individuals like you and I, we can all come together as a community, keep a look out and act as a support network for friends with dementia and their caregivers.

 

Congratulations to AWWA on the opening of the Dementia Day Care Centre at Yishun. Thank you once again for your effort and spirit of service towards the disadvantaged across all life stages as well as their families and caregivers. Congratu