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We Have An Ageing Population Problem - Here's How Our Labour Movement Is Helping

Quick history fact – did you know the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was not Singapore’s first labour movement?

According to this source, the Singapore General Labour Union (SGLU) was formed after the Japanese surrendered Singapore to the British on 12 September 1945, which was renamed as the Singapore Federation of Trade Union (SFTU) a year later.

Another labour movement called the Singapore Trade Union Congress (STUC) was set up in 1951 to replace the SFTU, but split a decade later to form the “left-wing Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU) and the non-communist National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).”

“An NTUC Welcome supermarket, the predecessor of NTUC FairPrice.” / Image Credit: MINDEF Nexus

I know, that’s a lot of abbreviations.

In a nutshell, NTUC was set up to help improve job opportunities in post-war Singapore against Communist-led unions who opposed the merger between Singapore and Malaya.

They provided what was necessary at the time, which was mainly providing and ensuring jobs for Singaporeans, championing for workers’ welfare like providing outlets for them to get affordable and quality living essentials, childcare, and fairer salary.

The Ageing Population And The Labour Movement

If you’ve ever wondered why we celebrate Labour Day, it’s because of our continually-evolving labour movement that we enjoy our annual leaves, fair workplace treatment, etc.

While NTUC has been providing childcare since the ’70s, early childhood education (part of NTUC Social Enterprises) became part of its co-operative in 1992 to meet the needs of working parents.

A ward at NTUC Health’s newest nursing home in Chai Chee

With the increase in the ageing population, providing healthcare services such as eldercare and nursing homes is the newest labour movement by NTUC to help families cope with caring for the elderly.

Its entrance to the nursing home market moderates prices and give busy, working Singaporeans who aren’t able to be full-time caregivers more budget options.

NTUC Health announced the opening of their first nursing home at Jurong West in May 2016, highlighting their commitment to providing “integrated health and eldercare services” for individual elderly needs.

In November this year, they officially opened their second nursing home at Chai Chee.

NTUC Health’s key goal across their nursing homes would be to focus resources on senior residents that have the potential to recover, to enable them to “eventually return to their families and the community”.

NTUC Health’s nursing home in Chai Chee / Image Credit: NTUC Health

We were invited to visit their latest nursing home in Chai Chee to have a look at its facilities and experience their service from a visitor’s point-of-view.

Clara Lee, Head of Corporate Communications and Branding for NTUC Health had expressed that they hope to “erase the social stigma of nursing homes” as there are families who do leave their elders in the homes indefinitely.

She explained that the purpose of their eldercare services is to give working professionals and busy Singaporeans a peace of mind by offering quality and affordable healthcare services.

NTUC Health’s overall pathos when it comes to providing eldercare, is focusing on building trust with the seniors.

Just behind the reception near the entrance, a nostalgic corner for patients and visitors.

Raymond Lim, Centre Director, NTUC Health Nursing Home (Chai Chee) said that NTUC Health also incorporated thematic designs across its nursing homes, using local icons and scenes to bring a sense of familiarity to senior residents here.

A wall mural on one of the floors of the nursing home. Each floor has a different theme.

That is because being in a familiar place helps them feel comfortable and safe, as well as more at home. Hence the colourful and nostalgic interior depicting nostalgic scenes such as a HDB living room.

Staff interacting with residents in Chai Chee nursing home / Image Credit: NTUC Health

NTUC Health’s latest nursing home at Chai Chee has 342 beds; with a Silver Circle Senior Care Centre located within its premises that can serve some 100 clients.

The home’s spaces are designed to be dementia-friendly, with trained staff and complementary amenities that are aimed at community re-integration.

A pre-schooler and resident doing an activity together at THE LIVING ROOM, a multi-purpose hall within the home / Image Credit: NTUC Health

The daily programmes include morning exercises and other social activities as well as tailored individual physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions depending on the needs of each individual resident.

Residents with high potential for recovery are placed in an intensive rehabilitation programme that prioritises and expedites their recovery process, helping these senior residents return home or to the community to be with their families and friends.

Staff encouraging a resident in the midst of her physiotherapy session / Image Credit: NTUC Health

Essentially, these seniors are moved from a long-term healthcare service (nursing home) to other services to support them living more independntly within the community.

Other services available for discharged residents include day care, home care, sheltered/ senior group homes, or just therapy; all of which are available within NTUC Health’s suite of integrated services.

Relying less on healthcare professionals gives seniors a sense of achievement, independence and dignity; making them feel less like a burden but rather, a purposeful individual that can still contribute to their homes/ families/ the community.

A spokesperson showing some of the crafts the elders have made together with school children and volunteers.

Across NTUC Health’s nursing homes, groups of individuals from schools, corporate organisations, neighbourhood shops, religious organisations and individual volunteers, usually spend a good two hours with the residents, on an average of eight times a month.

Their activity-centric programme allows residents to participate in activities together with volunteers of all ages.

A family member visiting a centre’s client.

Angie, daughter of one of the residents at the home and a caregiver, noted that the environment at the home was so comfortable that she felt right at home with her mother.

She thinks the nostalgic and vibrant interior design of the home definitely led her to spending more time with her mother at the home.

The Cost Of Ageing

One of the nostalgia-themed corners of the Chai Chee nursing home.

Up until here, I think we get the idea that this is a very modern, dementia-friendly, and approachable facility for the people who need it.

For families who are eligible for Government subsidies, fees are subsidised up to 75% for Singaporean Citizens and up to 50% for Permanent Residents.

Up to 90% of the residents’ living within NTUC Health’s nursing homes are subsidised, as they are Ministry of Health Build-Own-Lease nursing homes.

NTUC Health shared with us that the cost of accommodation at NTUC Health Nursing Home is between $2-3.5k per month before subsidy and excluding consumables. The cost after Government subsidy will vary depending on the Household Means Test.

At NTUC Health’s nursing homes, staff are also trained to adapt to a variety of situations that are commonly faced in nursing homes and geriatric care.

For example, staff go through dementia training, and are constantly equipped with skills required to deliver quality geriatric care.

Principal Physiotherapist, Reddy Potturi, showing us the indoor gym for residents who require physiotherapy.

I spoke to Principal Physiotherapist, Reddy Potturi, on his experience in nursing homes so far, since he came from a geriatric speciality background in two local hospitals.

He said that there are major differences working in a hospital that deals with acute health problems as compared to a nursing home, despite being in similar fields.

For one, residents within a nursing home require much more support physically and mentally.

Within a nursing home, a good 90-95% of the residents are wheelchair-bound. So getting through a physiotherapy session is a lot tougher for them, as well as for staff.

But it’s not all gloomy.

Reddy shared that he is able to build friendships here, with residents that he sees on a regular and longer term basis.

“At the hospitals, patients come and go. At a nursing home, you have the opportunity to form bonds, relationships, and build trust. It is definitely a lot more fulfilling and much more meaningful as you see them improve over time and appreciate your efforts in helping them regain their functions, no matter how small.”

An area for residents to watch television.

He also remarked that seniors are admitted into nursing homes because families are unable to care for them as well as they’d like to.

They do not have the medical knowledge, and in some cases, the physical strength to care for their loved ones at home.

In a nursing home, that is all taken care of, so it alleviates some burden from families as they know that their loved ones are being cared for by professionals.

Even in situations where families are still able to care for these seniors at home, they still need some level of support.

That is where NTUC Health’s other services come in, such as home care and day care.

NTUC, as a Labour Movement, is dedicated to helping the average Singaporean family moderate the cost of living and stretch their dollar, and striving to stay relevant in our society’s ever-changing needs.

With the right eldercare facilities and services, seniors can be well-taken care of, and the working people and family members can have a peace of mind.

Find out more about the union’s nursing homes here.

The Labour Movement wants to evolve the products and services of its Social Enterprises to stay relevant to the working people in Singapore.

Featured Image Credit: NTUC Health

 

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