The Sunday Times says

The home advantage for seniors

Being cared for at home instead of in the hospital when one is aged and unwell may seem like the obvious thing, especially in societies like Singapore which have been traditionally anchored to filial values. But it is easier said than done in a changing world, which is why the Government called recently for an aggressive push to achieve a higher proportion of home care for seniors.

The key statistics alone should provide the impetus for such change. Asians are getting elderly at a quicker clip than the rest of the world, with a doubling to 14 per cent of seniors aged 65 and older in 20 years. Here, one in four Singaporeans will be in that age group in 14 years.

Coupling the rapid rate of ageing with lower labour growth and shrinking family sizes, one can see why home care is not just an option but a necessity. To be sure, there are drawbacks in home care, and potential concerns that ought to be monitored. Home care patients will not have round-the-clock assistance. The choice of caregivers may not always be readily available in one's neighbourhood, especially on weekends when the shortage of caregivers may be more acute. Caregivers may also not be as able or well-monitored compared to an institution, for example, an eldercare facility.

But the advantages outweigh the drawbacks, especially if the cost of home care keeps abreast of, or is cheaper than, institutionalised care. To build an effective eco-system in each community, technology and manpower must be effectively harnessed and synthesised. One example is SingHealth's pilot mobile app that matches nurses available to patients requiring aid nearby.

Home-based care may not be the most efficient or economical means but it solves the practical and emotional needs of patients who prefer the familiar comfort of home to the anonymous environment of a hospital or hospice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'The home advantage for seniors'. Print Edition | Subscribe