Though our economy keeps on racing ahead, what’s not captured by those record-breaking statistics are the ways other parts of our society lag behind, like the care system for the elderly and mentally impaired – there’s two groups that are frequently marginalized. However, Shanghai’s doing a bit more to ensure health care options are modernizing too. A recent NY Times article observes the “remarkable” shift in the care available for those with dementia.
Shanghai No. 3 Elderly Home is one of the first of its kind. Its facilities include a hair salon, cinema, and a karaoke room with the latest pop songs, you probably wouldn’t have even guessed it was a nursing home from the looks of it. And at this care center, carers play memory games with patients, making hand contact with them as much as possible. Many of the patients even wear armbands to help staff monitor their whereabouts too. But that’s not how it always was.
A decade ago, many families were ashamed to admit that their elders had such a disease. And because of a lack of awareness about the disease, many dementia patients were confined to the psychiatric wards of hospitals, which placed steel bars over the windows.
Though dementia patients are no longer relegated to the psychiatric wards of hospitals, families with members suffering from the disease still face a huge problem: there are nowhere near enough facilities that are equipped, facility and staff-wise, like Shanghai No. 3 Elderly Home. One man explains, “…[T]here’s so far not a single nursing home that offered a suitable place for my father-in-law. Professional hospitals are all filled up, and private nursing homes don’t have qualified people.”
Given China’s 4-2-1 family structure (4 aging grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child), that plight is becoming a common one and to cope, Shanghai is developing a plan that will firstly, increase the number of elderly care centers and secondly, make sure that the centers will be able to provide the right type of care for patients with dementia.
…Shanghai is proposing what it calls the 90-7-3 plan, which means 90 percent of the elderly will need to be cared for at home, while 7 percent make occasional visits to a community center and 3 percent live in nursing homes.
“We’re planning to build at least one nursing home that can care for dementia patients in every district,” Zhang Fan, deputy director of social welfare at the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said in a telephone interview. “Every year, we’ll need at least 5,000 additional beds.”
Though the health care system still has a long, tough road ahead of it, it’s a striking picture to what the situation used to be just ten years ago.
“I am proud to say we’re the first professional center for dementia patients,” Dr. Zhang from Shanghai No. 3 Elderly Center said. “We are the first in the whole country. Ten years ago, dementia patients were sent to psychiatric wards. Things are different now.”