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Hougang nursing home needs more sensitive Chinese name

Recently, I drove past a soon-to-be-completed nursing home by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society on Hougang Avenue 8, and was dismayed by the Chinese name of the facility.

Recently, I drove past a soon-to-be-completed nursing home by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society on Hougang Avenue 8, and was dismayed by the Chinese name of the facility.

A prominent signage states the name as THK Nursing Home. Above the English words is its Chinese name, where “Nursing Home” has been translated as “Bing Lao Yuan”.

The Chinese character “bing” means illness and “lao” means old. So it literally means a facility for sick, old people.

It conjures up an image of progressing illnesses, frail old age, followed by death, and evokes a sense of gloom and doom, of bleakness and hopelessness. This is definitely unhealthy for a nursing home and disrespectful to our seniors.

Sure, we can call a spade a spade, but when it comes to senior care, there ought to be more sensitivity and empathy. There is really no need to be so blunt and insensitive.

Moreover, isn’t “liao yang yuan” the Chinese equivalent of “nursing home”? It denotes a facility where you receive nursing care to get well, to recuperate, to convalesce. Or perhaps “an lao yuan” may also be used if the management wants to emphasise that the facility is meant only for seniors. At least this connotes serenity and peaceful convalescence for the aged.

There are so many misconceptions about nursing homes. Such places are subject to the undesirable not-in-my-backyard syndrome as well, so there is really no need to reinforce this stigma with such a negative name, portraying it as a place of sickness to be avoided.

Think about the person going to stay at the home, of the person’s family members. Admitting a loved one into a nursing home is often both a difficult and extremely emotional decision for all parties involved. Having a favourable or positive name for a home will ease the often overwhelming and stressful process of persuading and admitting a loved one there.

Imagine your aged parent being told he or she will be sent to a “bing lao yuan” instead of a “liao yang yuan”. It makes a difference, knowing that he or she is going to be nursed back to health and not going to a place of desolation and dread.

I hope Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society can review the name of its latest facility at Hougang before it commences operations.

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