Challenges in providing caregiver support

As advocates for family caregivers since our inception in 2006, we are heartened that caregiver support has been identified as one of the four key thrusts in the five-year third Enabling Masterplan ("Ensure no let-up in push for inclusive society"; Dec 21).

While macro initiatives such as the Disability Office in the Prime Minister's Office and national database would help inform policy planning and enable the coordination of services for those with disabilities, providing comprehensive caregiver support on the ground presents some challenges.

Potentially, the existing channels are best placed to provide family caregiver support across the lifespan of those with disabilities.

A viable option is to embed caregiver support as an integral part of disability services.

This will require additional care coordinators to interview, case-manage, counsel or advise family caregivers requiring specific information and guidance.

However, the reality is that caregiver support initiatives do not, at present, attract mainstream funding.

For voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to be nudged into doing more for caregiver support, they need resources. The question is whether they will have these while providing quality care for people with disabilities.

A mindset shift is required, both among leaders and professionals in VWOs operating in the disability space, as well as funders and policymakers in the social, health and education domains.

While more seed funding has recently been made available through the Tote Board's Enabling Lives Initiative, VWOs ultimately shoulder the responsibility of ensuring the sustainability of such services beyond the pilot phase.

We are currently pilot-testing the use of assessment tools to track caregiver stress and support levels in order to identify those requiring case-management, counselling, training, respite or future planning guidance.

We are also helping the Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information on a pilot project to develop online support tools for caregivers.

Such ground-level initiatives provide the foundation to collectively support family caregivers throughout the lifespan of those with disabilities.

It is hoped that the master plan will lead to a mandating of the provision of comprehensive caregiver support.

Manmohan Singh

Director

Family and Caregiver Support

AWWA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Challenges in providing caregiver support'. Print Edition | Subscribe