New centre to boost training in elderly care

SINGAPORE - Every doctor and nurse should know how to care for the elderly, especially as the population ages.

This is partly why the National Healthcare Group (NHG) has set up a centre dedicated to this field.

The Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing, launched today at the Singapore Health and Biomedical Congress, seeks to attract, train and retain health-care workers in elderly care.

Health-care institutions - besides those run by NHG - can also tap its services.

The institute will work with three medical schools - Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and the upcoming Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine - to beef up training in geriatrics for health-care workers.

It will also develop initiatives to improve patient care as well as coordinate and fund research efforts.

"Knowing how to assess the health of old people should be a fundamental skill for all doctors," said Associate Professor Chin Jing Jih, who is heading the initiative.

The geriatrician pointed out that many medical students, especially before they do stints at a geriatrics department, harbour a pessimistic view of old people - something he hopes to correct.

"They believe that they are generally not fit for surgery, hence not so relevant in the surgical unit, and so on," said Prof Chin, divisional chairman of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) integrative and community care. "We realise that our curriculum needs innovation."

Today, Singapore has 350,000 people aged 65 and above, a number that will treble by 2030.

The institute is in the process of gathering funds from within NHG.

Housed in TTSH, it will also promote healthy living among seniors in the community. Caregivers will be roped in too.

So far, such programmes have been isolated, spearheaded by different people or departments.

Research studies have also traditionally been driven by individuals in areas they have a special interest in.

With the institute's help, such efforts will be more coordinated. A team of full-time administrative staff will oversee things like paperwork - for example, in submitting applications for grants.

They will also match health-care workers keen on doing similar projects so they may consider pooling their resources.

"We want to make research part and parcel of daily work, to make it painless," said Prof Chin.

The two-day congress, organised by NHG, has drawn 2,500 participants from more than 10 countries.

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