SINGAPORE - A new rehabilitation programme can get two out of three severely disabled patients home in four months or less, shorter than the norm of two years.
The programme is being piloted in three nursing homes and is seeing promising results, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told The Straits Times.
"The main objective is to help patients to return home safely and earlier. This way, they can continue to recover at home, in a more familiar environment and with support from family members, which will bring about better outcomes," he said.
"It would also free up space for others in need of nursing home care."
For Madam Wong Kim Heng, 79, who had a major stroke last year that left her bedridden and unable to eat, it was pure luck that she was admitted to Peacehaven Nursing Home, one of the three on the pilot.
Her neurosurgeon had told her family that she would need to be tube-fed for the rest of her life.
However, she was able to eat in just six weeks, thanks to intensive work with a speech therapist to exercise the muscles in her face and throat, and with various other therapists to regain her balance when sitting, and improve her concentration through a range of activities.
Her condition continued to improve so much so that she was able to go home within three months.
She is still unable to walk, but with help from the Salvation Army which runs Peacehaven, and the government-funded Seniors' Mobility Fund, her family have bought her an electric hospital bed which is easier to get in and out of. They also got her a wheelchair and a commode on wheels for safer showering, and had ramps installed over the doorways of the entrance and the toilet.
She still attends a daytime rehabilitation programme three times a week and her family said she is not just mentally and physically fitter now than before, but also much happier.
Speaking at the Salvation Army's Red Shield Appeal lunch at the Conrad Centennial Hotel yesterday, Mr Gan told the 280 guests: "Anticipating the increase in demand for aged care that will come with a fast-ageing population, MOH has put in place plans to ramp up aged care capacity and to enhance the quality and affordability of aged care."
Much of what Madam Wong needed was paid for with government subsidies and charity money.
The Salvation Army expects to spend more than $29 million this year and needs to raise $6.5 million from public donations, said Colonel Lyndon Buckingham, its Territorial Commander for Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar.
He said 89 cents in every dollar donated goes directly to help patients.
It also gets subsidies from the Government. On top of that, it has so far matched $1.5 million in public donations through a dollar-for-dollar grant, Mr Gan revealed.
This was used to buy several pneumatic exercise machines, which cost more than $100,000 each, to help the frail regain muscle strength. Unlike normal machines, these allow even those with very weak muscles to exercise, and track any improvement in strength by the user.
Madam Low Mui Lang, executive director of Peacehaven Nursing Home, said it helped one patient to walk without the aid of a stick as both her strength and balance improved.
This article was published on Aug 16 in The Straits Times.
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