Dementia: What it is

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease caused by damage to protein structures in the brain, abnormal protein growth around brain cells, or lost connections between brain cells.

Patients suffer memory loss, and lose the ability to coordinate, recognise objects and interpret the environment. Dementia is a progressive disease, but changes to the home can help patients live safely and independently.

Dementia: Signs and symptoms

Early symptoms of dementia are usually not immediately obvious and may vary from person to person. Some noticeable and common symptoms include:

  • Forgetting recent events and misplacing things
  • Having impaired judgement and difficulty planning or solving problems
  • Having difficulty finding the right words
  • Having difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Becoming confused and disoriented in unfamiliar places
  • Having personality changes and mood swings

Tips to make a home dementia-friendly

  • Lighting should match the cycle of day and night to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm
  • Declutter the home to avoid falls
  • Avoid wavy lines, but have contrasting colours on walls and floors to give a sense of depth and perspective
  • Label commonly used cupboards and drawers
  • Keep medication and important items in designated places
  • Leave a phone list (with photographs, if necessary) by the telephone
  • Use a bulletin board for reminders to the person
  • Install bed sensors to alert carers when patient is up and moving

Community support for dementia patients

To help dementia patients lead dignified lives, the Ministry of Health and Agency for Integrated Care have been strengthening the skills and capabilities of care staff and carers:

  • Eldercare centres in Singapore are able to care for 1,000 seniors with dementia at any given time
  • The centres will have the capacity to look after 3,000 seniors with dementia by 2020
  • The dementia-friendly communities initiative has trained over 7,000 people from communities like Macpherson and Yishun to recognise common dementia signs and help support people with dementia
  • $200 a year each is available for carers, including domestic foreign workers, to attend courses under the Caregivers Training Grant

Numbers at a glance

Sources: Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board, Institute of Mental Health, Alzheimer’s Disease Association

Ref: N18

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