Recognising dementia symptoms & raising awareness

Last month (October 10) was World Mental Health Day. In Singapore, the first National Mental Health Week to raise awareness of mental illness and to reduce the stigma around it began in 1987.

Mental disorders can be a complex combination of both genetic and environmental or lifestyle factors. Early diagnosis and access to treatment are critical to managing the disorders. In terms of our awareness of mental illness, a recent survey showed that at least five in 10 people were able to identify the symptoms of dementia (66.3 percent), alcohol abuse (57.1 percent) and depression (55.2 percent).

The Mental Health Literacy study conducted between March 2014 and March 2015 by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) asked people about their perceptions of five common mental disorders. Besides the illnesses mentioned above, fewer people were able to identify symptoms associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (28.7 percent) and schizophrenia (11.5 percent).

While it is reassuring to know that two out of three of the 3,006 adults who participated in the IMH study were able to identify dementia occurrence, the recognition of symptoms does not necessarily imply that people understand the sickness.

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A better environment for those with dementia

Prof Richard Fleming.

During the Alzheimer’s 25th anniversary symposium titled “Towards a dementia-friendly Singapore”, Prof Richard Fleming, who is part of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at Australia’s University of Wollongong and director of the NSW/ACT Dementia Training Study Centre, shared the 10 design principles to creating a better environment for people with dementia:

1. Unobtrusively reduce risks – People with dementia require an internal and external environment that is safe, secure and easy to move around if they are to make the best of their remaining abilities. However, obvious safety features and barriers will lead to frustration, agitation and anger, and so potential risks need to be reduced unobtrusively. “The magic word is unobtrusive,” said Prof Fleming.

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The well-being of third agers

Today, I attended the Council for Third Age’s inaugural conference titled “Happiness in Your 3rd Age”. One of the speakers, Dr Tambyah Siok Kuan, senior lecturer of NUS Business School, National University of Singapore, shared a 2011 survey about well-being and those 50s to 70s were interviewed for their views. She said the results were encouraging and that third agers feel they are happier and with what they have achieved.

Here are some of her slides from her talk:


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Growing the capabilities in the community

Guest-of-honour Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor with the Social & Health Manpower Development Programme-ILTC award recipients.

With more and more seniors wanting to live and age well at home, to make this a reality for them, a possible answer is through upgrading the skills in the community so those in the sector can delivery even better quality care. Shared Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, “With the growth in the community care services, we need close to 11,000 more staff in 2020 as compared to 2012 across all levels to augment the existing manpower pool. Community care is a source of good jobs for Singaporeans.”

Coming off a Senior Care Job Fair @ South West which took place in July and attracted more than 900 job applications, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) organised the third Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) Manpower Development Awards Ceremony in late August. A total of 91 awards were given, an increase from last year. The study awards fell into five categories: the Social & Development Manpower Development Programme for the Intermediate and Long-Term Care (SHMDP-ILTC), ILTC-Upgrading Programme (ILTC-UP), Mid-Term Scholarships for Social Workers, ILTC – Palliative Care Training Award and the Balaji Sadasivan Study Award.

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Flexible working key for older workers

Nine out of 10 (92 percent) senior business people in various industries in Singapore see flexible working critical for keeping older, experienced workers in the economy, according to the latest research by global workplace provider Regus.

The study also found that 96 percent of respondents confirm that flexible working is key to keeping carers and post-retirement workers in employment so that they can better juggle the demands of their family and their professional life. The study surveyed more than 586 people in January this year.

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