Building a dementia-friendly environment
Hong Leong Finance takes the lead in training its staff to better understand dementia and help its customers.
Singapore’s largest finance company, Hong Leong Finance (HLF) has enrolled about 200 of its employees into the dementia-awareness training programme by Forget Us Not (FUN), a joint initiative by Lien Foundation and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). HLF is the first financial institution in Singapore to put all its branch frontline staff through the programme.
The training sessions provide staff with better understanding of dementia, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to recognise and act on its signs and symptoms at work and in the community.
Ang Tang Chor, president of HLF, said: “Every HLF employee plays a social role in helping to spot tell-tale signs … it is our commitment and civic responsibility to ensure that we look out for them [our customers] and maintain their trust.” The company hopes to respond to the needs of its customers living with dementia so they can still access financial services safely and receive the necessary help to remain independent for as long as possible.
Dementia causes progressive intellectual decline leading to increasing difficulties in coping with everyday activities. It is not part of normal ageing and affects mainly those above 60 years old. According to figures by the Health Ministry, Singapore’s ageing population has one in every 10 persons aged 60 years and older suffering from dementia, and one in every two persons aged 85 years with dementia. This means more than 45,000 people in Singapore’s elderly community are currently living with dementia.
“Responding to people with dementia can be challenging as they have difficulties with memory, reasoning and judgement. Reports of sufferers being suspicious of and mistrustful towards their caregivers on money matters are not uncommon,” said Associate Professor Philip Yap, clinical director of the Geriatric Centre at KTPH, at one of the training sessions.
Professor Yap, who also spearheads the FUN campaign on dementia awareness, shared the example of how HLF went the extra mile to assist a customer with dementia at the training. A branch manager who knew a customer well, observed frequent and unusual withdrawals of substantial amounts that were not consistent with the customer’s transaction history. To ensure the safety of the customer’s finances, the manager visited the customer at home to learn more about the situation and better manage the case.
“This is the kind of gotong royong (or community) spirit that we hope to foster with FUN. Dementia sufferers should be included and supported so they can live in their cherished communities for as long as possible,” continued Professor Yap.
HLF’s trainers will be participating in the Train-the-Trainer Programme that FUN will be initiating. With its own Dementia Awareness Trainers, the company’s new frontline staff will undergo Dementia Awareness Training Course as a part of their compulsory training curriculum.