Why I hug

21 Aug 2011By Josefina Khai, Singapore

When I first learnt that I would be assigned to the new dementia unit, my first thoughts were, “How do I take care of them?”

You’d hear warnings from your friends in the other wards about the residents with dementia, “So-and-so always wanders around, sometimes she might bite you, and sometimes she wrings her poo at you.” And we wanted to put everyone with dementia in one unit. So I was scared.

But when you spend time working with them, it becomes quite fun. Some of them express their emotions well; I’d get hugged, kissed. They want to be hugged. Residents with dementia need a lot of affection. When you give it to them, they will return the same.

Back in the Philipines I wasn’t used to hugging. But I learnt how to hug here (in the dementia unit). Even though Chinese Singaporeans don’t seem to like hugging, and some refuse to be hugged, our residents with dementia like to hold hands; we communicate through touch.

When you hug them, they feel loved, and they become more relaxed.

Staff Nurse Josefina Khai has been working in Peacehaven Nursing Home for more than 11 years. She was part of the team which brought Singapore its first dementia hostel in 2006, the Hope Resident Living Area in Peacehaven Nursing Home, Singapore. Hope aims to maximize independence and confidence in people with early and moderate stages of dementia.