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‘Forget Us Not’ campaign aims to build dementia-friendly communities

SINGAPORE — As a young boy, L Sakthisvaran often saw an elderly lady loitering around his void deck, and she would yell at the top of her voice and act erratically. Sometimes, passers-by would approach residents to find out more about her, but no one knew her identity.

‘Forget Us Not’ campaign aims to build dementia-friendly communities

KTPH Geriatric Centre director Dr Philip Yap (fourth from left) and Lien Foundation CEO Mr Lee Poh Wah (third from right), along with caregivers and representatives from dementia-friendly organisations and schools, at the launch of the Forget Me Not initiative on Jan 20, 2016. Photo: Louisa Tang/TODAY

SINGAPORE As a young boy, L Sakthisvaran often saw an elderly lady loitering around his void deck, and she would yell at the top of her voice and act erratically. Sometimes, passers-by would approach residents to find out more about her, but no one knew her identity.

“I would have realised she could have had dementia if I knew what I know now,” the 21-year-old Nanyang Polytechnic student said.

He attributed his new-found knowledge to a training session and talk on dementia conducted by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). The session was part of a pilot of the “Forget Us Not” initiative, which was officially launched today (Jan 20) by KTPH and the Lien Foundation. 

The campaign aims to build dementia-friendly communities in Singapore, starting with Yishun housing estate, and improve awareness and understanding of dementia, both in businesses and among the public.

A team of KTPH staff will train organisation staff to be more dementia-friendly through customised, face-to-face sessions that involve hands-on activities, such as role-playing.

For example, a dementia sufferer could go to a supermarket and forget to pay for his groceries. Frontline staff could recognise his symptoms then and help out.

Members of the public can also sign up online to become “Dementia Friends”. They will receive a handbook with tips on how to recognise common symptoms of dementia, such as forgetting objects and faces,  and what to do upon encountering a dementia sufferer. They can also attend training sessions by KTPH.

So far, KTPH has conducted training with 23 organisations, businesses and schools, including McDonald’s and four retailers at North Point Shopping Centre in Yishun. 

Lien Foundation chief executive officer Lee Poh Wah said they aim to reach at least 100 organisations and train 10,000 Dementia Friends by this September. World Alzhemier’s Day falls on Sept 21.

KTPH and Lien Foundation also hope to scale up the campaign to more housing estates in the future, Mr Lee added. 

Outreach efforts in Yishun will include bus stop advertisements, social experiment videos, and two getai events to be held in March. 

“Because of its prevalence and high cost to society, we need to make dementia-friendly communities the ‘new normal’ in Singapore, starting with Yishun – which has an elderly population and established network of support from KTPH,” he said.

Almost one in 10 residents in Yishun are 65 years and above, while one out of four residents in Chong Pang are senior citizens. It is estimated that there are about 1,000 people suffering from dementia in the Chong Pang area.

Dr Philip Yap, director of KTPH’s Geriatric Centre, said: “(In Yishun), they (dementia sufferers) can get around safely and continue to participate meaningfully in their usual routine because members of their community, be it a favourite neighbour, shopkeeper or local policeman, can understand and assist them.”

Dementia affects one in 10 people aged 60 years and above, and the number of dementia sufferers in Singapore will more than double to 103,000 people by 2030.

Those interested in signing up as Dementia Friends can do so at www.forgetusnot.sg.

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