Sunday 20 October 2013

4th nursing home for mentally ill to open

St Andrew's Nursing Home will be largest of such institutions here
By Poon Chian Hui, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2013

A NEW nursing home for mentally unwell patients will open next month, the fourth and largest of such institutions here.

St Andrew's Nursing Home, a 0.44ha site in Buangkok Green Medical Park, will house 300 beds in a new seven-storey building.

The first 100 residents who will be admitted from Nov 25 will be long-stay patients from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), said the facility's executive director, Dr Tiew Lay Hwa.

Expected to be in their 40s to 70s, they have conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. Some also have physical disabilities.

Announcing the new facility yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it would provide not only essential long-term care for residents, but also jobs for recovering psychiatric patients.

Some 10 to 20 workers will be contracted for services ranging from laundry to cleaning through the Hougang Care Centre, which runs a vocational programme for such patients.

The nursing home will be run by St Andrew's Mission Hospital, a community organisation marking its 100th anniversary of providing care for groups such as sick children and the elderly.

"Good care for our senior citizens goes beyond good medical treatment. It is also about addressing their psychological and social well-being," Mr Gan said yesterday, as he toured the new home.

More than one in 10 people in Singapore will have mental illness in their lifetime, according to the Singapore Mental Health Study 2010, a rate projected to increase as the population ages.

Group chief executive of St Andrew's Mission Hospital and the Singapore Anglican Community Services Arthur Chern said demand for long-term psychiatric care is also driven by better awareness among the public that help is available.

But long-term psychiatric care is limited, with only three other nursing homes, Sunlove Home, Surya Home and Tai Pei Social Service, run by voluntary welfare organisations. "In the past, some people had to be put in other types of homes that may not have the expertise or specialised care for their psychiatric problems," said Dr Chern.

Aside from specific services to aid the mentally ill, the new home will also have a job placement scheme to train residents to go back to work, for instance as clerical workers or cleaners.

They will also learn how to cope with their condition in the workplace and among colleagues.

Patients with dementia will be housed on the first floor, with access to an enclosed garden, said Dr Tiew.

Each of the 10 wards also has an activity area for handicraft, puzzles and music therapy.

Though the home will take its first residents from IMH, which is in the same medical park, it will also admit patients referred through the Agency for Integrated Care from March next year.

Dr Chern said the ultimate aim is to get patients well enough to reintegrate into the community.

"But for those who need to stay with us for a long time, we want to make this place special," he added. "We want them to feel as if they are in their own homes."

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