Nurses and their assistants are now being trained to spot eye diseases among elderly residents at nursing homes.

The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) have for the first time partnered to introduce a one-day workshop for this group of health-care professionals.

Among the lessons that these professionals will learn from senior eye nurses at SNEC are spotting eye diseases that affect the elderly, such as cataracts, and caring for those with these conditions.

Already, they perform daily routine health checks on nursing home residents. With the extra training, they can help in the early detection of eye problems these residents may have.

SNEC's assistant director of nursing Aw Ai Tee noted that nursing assistants are typically given only some training in basic nursing care - but not specifically in eye care. "With the ageing population, we do expect age-related eye diseases to increase tremendously," she said.

Singapore has more than 60 nursing homes that care for some 9,600 patients, mostly elderly.

Dr Thiyagarajan Jayabaskar, deputy director of academic affairs at SNEC, said it can be a challenge to transport nursing home residents to a clinic or hospital for thorough check-ups.

While doctors do visit nursing homes to check on patients, they do not do this every day. "But the nurses and nursing assistants are caring for them daily. Instead of waiting for the doctor to come by, they can be more proactive," said Dr Jayabaskar.

The AIC plans to hold four sessions of the workshop from April next year. So far, two sessions have been held to train 41 people from 15 institutions.

One of them is Ms Soon Kuan Bee, 69, a part-time nurse at the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home in Thomson. She said the workshop was useful and she has learnt how to care for residents who have undergone an eye operation. For instance, she used to believe that a patient's eyes must be cleaned every time before putting in eye drops. But this can do more harm than good, she explained.

Said fellow trainee Lim Cheng Hoe, 48, a staff nurse at United Medicare Centre in Elizabeth Drive: "Before, we used to rely on pamphlets a lot. But we were able to clarify our doubts with the experts during the workshop."