A Lack Of Aged Care Options
Interestingly, Singapore is beginning to build more nursing homes at a time when many other countries are moving away from what is referred to as the “medicalised” model for residential aged care: with uniform-clad residents and dismal, dreary dormitory-style beds that have the clinical, colourless look and feel of hospitals. Many feel that committing medically stable folk into nursing homes is to rob their lives of meaning and purpose, especially since, nursing home residents can stay for years, even decades. Significantly, rather than building more nursing homes, Europe, Australia and the US have moved into developing assisted living or continuing-care communities, where older folk can receive care, but retain some semblance of independence in home-like environments.
In the US, nursing home residents have fallen in number from 2 million in the early 1990s to around 1.4 million in 2013. In 2014, there were only 15,000 nursing homes compared to more than 30,000 assisted living or senior living communities. These are typically meant for folk who have little or no medical needs, but require help with physical needs such as feeding, showering or going to the restroom. In Singapore too, the time has come to press the pause button on building medicalised, largely cookie-cutter mega-nursing homes with multiple-bed dormitories and focus on bringing more choice and diversity into residential aged care.
Singapore should draw up better targets on providing a greater range of comfortable eldercare options. Finland, for instance, aims to have only 3 per cent of people aged 75 and above in nursing or old folks’ homes, with another 5 to 6 per cent in assisted living facilities with 24-hour care. By contrast, Singapore has enough nursing home beds for nearly 7 per cent of its 75-plus population, but hardly any assisted living facilities.