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Coming Home to Geriatric Medicine

‘Home’, can be defined as a dwelling for refuge; It is distinctly different from ‘house’, which denotes a physical space for habitation. For many, “home” conjures up a familiar, much-loved place that evokes a general sense of comfort and well-being. Retaining this sense of home is especially important in geriatric medicine. Elderly patients, having been thrust into a cold and sterile medical environment, might be feeling scared and disoriented. We speak to Dr Munirah Alhamid, a Year 2 Senior Resident with SingHealth Residency’s Geriatric Medicine Programme who shared her views and passion for geriatric medicine.

Dr Munirah, who was the recipient of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine Prize in 2008, had her interest sown early in medical school, when she was studying in Melbourne. She visited a nursing home regularly as part of a community placement programme. She recalls fondly one particular resident named Gladys, who had Alzheimer’s disease. “I spent quite a lot of time with the residents, most of whom had dementia. Gladys would sing her heart out during the music therapy sessions, especially when her favourite song, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ came on. Many patients with dementia are able to remember very old memories, especially lyrics of childhood songs, and this song brought much joy and comfort to her. ” Gladys, like the other residents, was encouraged to personalise her bedroom with photos of her family and even had a cosy patchwork quilt as her duvet. A true-blue Australian, she included pictures of her favourite Australian Football League team, the ‘Geelong Cats’, Dr Munirah recounts with a laugh. Most importantly, the nursing home felt like a true home which embodied true patient-centred care, Dr Munirah reflected. “I really admired this nursing home’s deeply-rooted ethos of upholding personhood and dignity for their residents,” she added...

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