Part 2: A 1-Day Pre-Conference Visit – National Occupational Therapy Conference

I went on a 1-day pre-conference visit to Changi General Hospital, St. Andrew’s Community Hospital & Peacehaven nursing home, organised by the National Occupational Therapy Conference. It was a sharing of best practices for occupational therapists and there were a few overseas guests who joined us on this trip.

Although I wasn’t a therapist, I’m grateful that they allowed me to be part of this. It greatly helped me discern at that time whether I’m more suited for physiotherapy or occupational therapy. In the end, I still chose physiotherapy. However during the interview with Ministry of Health (MOH) and National University Hospital (NUH), it seems to me that physiotherapy may be over applied and they asked if I would be willing to take up occupational therapy instead.

I stuck to my choice. I do not think it’s simple to just shuffle people from physiotherapy to occupational therapy, without considering if their personality suits the occupation. I’d think that collectively, personality profiles of people in physiotherapy would be quite different to the ones in occupational therapy.

Changi General Hospital (CGH)

Our first stop – CGH is a 1,000-bed acute care hospital, serving 1.4 million people living in the eastern part of Singapore. For those of us who live in other parts of the country, CGH may seems like the lesser hospital among more popular ones like Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) just because we do not know enough.

However CGH proves to have a lot of new facilities. Wards are bright and welcoming, and even the nurse stations are modern, compared to the ones at SGH. In fact, one of the most impressive infrastructure is the hydrotherapy pool, built for its rehabilitative services.

Changi General Hospital - Hydrotherapy Pool

Here’s what it says on their website: “It has a moveable platform which can vary its depth. The water is also heated for increased therapeutic effect. The exercises which use the properties of water, are designed to rehabilitate patients with back pain, knee and shoulder conditions, stroke and stress.”

Changi General Hospital - Hydrotherapy Pool

Changi General Hospital - Hydrotherapy Pool

St. Andrew’s Community Hospital (SACH)

One advantage of being admitted at CGH, would be receiving step-down care conveniently and hassle-free next door. CGH nurses can easily transfer the patient to SACH by pushing the entire hospital bed across a linking bridge. SACH is a not-for-profit community hospital that provides services to patients who need to undergo up to 30 days of rehabilitative care and also caters for longer non-acute medical care. It has a dedicated ward for dementia patients and they even have built a garden linked just right outside to the ward, so the nurses or therapists could do some outdoor activities with them.

St. Andrew's Community Hospital

It’s also very interesting to see how the occupational therapists use actual past photos and objects to prevent further deterioration of the patients’ minds. Using slideshows and even sounds (e.g. kampung* sights, sounds of chickens), the therapist goes through these past memories with their patients and families. As most families depend on foreign domestic helper these days, SACH also provides FAQ sheets on dementia for the helper in Bahasa Indonesian, Burmese and Tagalog.

*Kampung, a Malay word that means village

This was one of the items used to trigger memories. Can you guess what is it?

Baby Bottle
Credit: Islington Education Artefacts Library, www.objectlessons.org

Click to Reveal Answer (Opens a New Window to www.objectlessons.org)

Sensory Apron

Example of a Sensory Clothing. Credit: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Products Ltd, www.alzproducts.co.uk

SACH therapists also made their own sensory pullover which are longer, so that their patients with dementia cannot remove them while wearing and sitting on it. Sensory clothings help to alleviate stress in people with cognitive or memory loss, as well as provide therapeutic comfort to reduce their restlessness.

Peacehaven Nursing Home

What do you think this looks like?

Peacehaven Nursing Home

If the topic didn’t give it away, you might probably think this is some private apartment or condominium when looking at it independently. Nursing homes are no longer looking dingy and sad.

Peacehaven Nursing Home

In fact, Peacehaven is airy and bustling with different activities every day to keep their patients occupied throughout the entire day, and their main goal is to make them feel at home.

Peacehaven Nursing Home - Resident's Artwork

Schedules are featured prominently in common areas and each patient can have their own room, where they can spruce it up according to their preferences. Patients’ artwork are placed around the home, and Peacehaven even has a swimming pool for the therapists to engage their patients for therapy. It has a very homely feel – living up to its name.

Peacehaven Nursing Home - Swimming Pool

Also probably surprising and not known to many people about Peacehaven was that the home is run by The Salvation Army (TSA). We always know TSA through their thrift shops, but not their other services and this home is one of the many social centres managed by the organisation.

Closing

Stepping out of my comfort zone, I explored the possibility of being a therapist. Although I wasn’t successful in my application, a week at the hospital and a day field trip were more than enough to show me the strength and vulnerability of a human being.

We have so much control over our lives when we are healthy, and when we are so sick, that control was taken away. It’s frustrating and indignant. At the same time, it is also humbling for both patient and therapist or caregiver.

Humbling for the patient because you learn to trust.
Humbling for the therapist or caregiver because the patient opens his or her life to them.

Many people would think they are in control, but in fact there are also many things in the universe out of our control. And things that are out of our control like death, yet there are also things within our control even if it’s just 1%.

I love watching Japanese animation and one of the female characters, Mikasa, from Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titans), said this:

できなければ,死ぬだけ。
でも,勝てば生きる。
戦わなければ,勝てない。

Dekinakereba, shinu dake.
Demo, kateba ikiru.
Tatakawanekereba, katenai

[If we don’t try, we will only die.
But if we win, we live.
If we do not fight, we cannot win]

More importantly, don’t go down life without a fight.