Population Fears

Copy of picture from 18th century depicting life in Kaifeng circa 1000AD

Singapore is all abuzz about the projected population growth from 5.3m today to 6.9m in 2030.

People are feeling the squeeze and complaining no end about it. Housing is expensive, cars are expensive, and public transport is too crowded for comfort. The population is rapidly aging too, and the older population above 65 years of age is expected to triple to 900,000 by 2030.

Methinks we plan and worry too much… maybe about the wrong things.

The numbers that caught my eye are actually the following:

There are approximately 200,000 foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore today. These are the women (mainly) who arrive from some neighbouring countries to live and work in the homes of Singapore residents. They are engaged mostly to look after young children and do the housework, but increasingly often, they are brought in to look after older folk.

Without them, 200,000 households out of the million of so will not be able to enjoy their current lifestyle.

In 2030, the number of foreign domestic workers is estimated to rise to 300,000.

300,000 out of 6.9m if the projected population will be foreign domestic workers (otherwise known as “maids”).

The good thing about FDWs is that they allow the elderly infirm to be looked after within their own homes, at affordable rates.

The bad news is that relying on FDWs is surely not sustainable in the long run. Some day, FDWs will stop arriving on our shores, and what will families do then?

A Safe Place

I attended a class on building dementia facilities a few days ago. It was eye-opening and sad at the same time.

Sad because I have just realised that in Singapore, we have homes for patients with dementia, but by and large, they are for the poor and destitute. Living conditions are not ideal, some would say even awful. (Here’s a picture of a typical nursing home.) A group of dedicated advocates is trying to improve on the situation, hence the class.

Most people keep their dementia parents at home, and try to cope. Basically my home is now the assisted living facility for my mom. I have a helper who comes in daily to cook and clean. This works because at this point in time mom is still fairly independent. She can be left alone at home for a few hours, while she reads, watches TV, writes in her notebook, and generally looks after herself.

I don’t let mom cook, partly because I think she has lost the ability, and also because I don’t want her to learn how to turn on the gas stove in my house, having read about the dangers looming in the future.

The eye-opening bit in the class was this – we were given a scenario where someone new has come to work in the facility, and she has never interacted with anyone with dementia. We were asked to explain to this new employee the most important things to know in dealing with dementia patients.

As the class described what they would say, the most important point that came across was, Don’t Argue.

– don’t argue, listen and try to understand

– validate and don’t argue

– look them in the eye when talking to them, treat with respect, and don’t disagree.

– speak in simple sentences, don’t lecture, don’t argue.

The other useful thing that I learned was that if the toilet was visible from the patient’s bed, they will use it, and it greatly reduces the incontinence problem. Now I have been considering some home improvements, but having the toilet fully visible from the living space is not possible in my home. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Maybe leaving a toilet light on at night will help.