More than 170 eldersitters on board to support caregivers of seniors with dementia: Amy Khor

Dr Amy Khor, at the Caregivers Conference 2017, Positive Steps Towards Building a Stigma-Free Society.
Dr Amy Khor, at the Caregivers Conference 2017, Positive Steps Towards Building a Stigma-Free Society.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Singapore has more than 170 eldersitters on board since last December to help take care of seniors suffering from dementia and give their caregivers a break, exceeding the initial target of 160 by 2020.

Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Amy Khor revealed this as she gave updates of government initiatives to better support the work of caregivers, whose burden is set to rise along with Singapore's rapidly ageing population.

Dr Khor, who is also SMS for the Environment and Water Resources, was speaking at the Caregivers Conference on Saturday (Sep 2) held at the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.

Presidential hopeful Halimah Yacob, was also present during the coffee break to mingle with the caregivers there.

Citing how one in four Singaporeans will be 65 or older by 2030, up from one in seven today, Dr Khor said the government has been enhancing existing initiatives, introducing new programmes to help caregivers, and also reviewing schemes to ensure affordability.

For instance, the government was on track to achieving its target to grow the number of home- and day-care places from 7,500 and 4,000 places today, to 10,000 and 6,200 places respectively by 2020 and would be increasing the number of dementia day care services by three-fold to 3,000 places by 2020, she said.

The number of allied health-led Community Intervention Teams which provide support to persons with mental health conditions and their caregivers, will also rise from 14 to 18 teams by 2021.

Dr Khor said the government is also making the respite care programmes more accessible, with nine eldercare centres across Singapore that can take care of seniors for a few hours on weekends and let their caregivers take a break.

Caregivers of seniors with dementia can also tap on the Eldersit programme where these seniors are engaged in cognitive-stimulating activitie.

Dr Khor said that as of end-2016, there are over 170 eldersitters across four partner organisations, who have reached out to over 800 clients. A media report in April 2016 said the target was to have 160 eldersitters by 2020.

But she added that the government recognises "it cannot do this alone".

"We need to work with the community and society at large to build ecosystems of care around our caregivers and their loved ones," she said.

She listed the Dementia Friendly Communities as examples of partnerships in which residents, businesses and other community partners are trained to identify and assist seniors with dementia.