Ageing in place: Too much red tape for family

My 106-year-old grandmother-in-law has been bedridden for more than five years. She has no major ailment other than just being old.

My mother-in-law and her two sisters, all in their 70s, have been caring for the centenarian on their own. They believe their mother is their responsibility and they try their best to manage every day.

Recently, I called the Agency for Integrated Care to find out more about the Seniors Mobility Fund, as my grandmother-in-law needed a new commode.

The cost of living has gone up and the family needs all the help it can get.

I was told that to get any form of subsidy, my mother-in-law would have to get my grandmother-in-law into the queue of an already overloaded healthcare system.

First, they would have to gather an assortment of documents to satisfy the means testing criteria. It did not matter that they already had the Community Health Assist Scheme card.

Then they would have to fork out money to hire a private ambulance to get my grandmother-in-law to and from a hospital to get her certified by a physiotherapist to confirm she truly requires a commode. That cost alone is more than the cost of the commode itself.

In addition, to get a subsidy for consumables such as adult diapers, the family would have to pay for the services of a homecare institution. The subsidy is through the institution. Again, the cost of the service is higher than the cost of the diapers.

We should strive to be like my mother-in-law and her sisters. They could have easily put their mother in a nursing home, enjoyed the subsidies and be done with it. But in return for choosing to care for their mother, in her own home without being a burden to anyone, they are cut off from any benefit.

"Ageing in place", "don't burden the system" are messages we see all the time. But from my family's experience, the processes on the ground seem to be herding the masses into the system.

Ho Whei Chern (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2015, with the headline 'Ageing in place: Too much red tape for family'. Print Edition | Subscribe