Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Health

What seniors need, care providers seek to meet

A domestic helper assisting an elderly lady.
A domestic helper assisting an elderly lady.PHOTO: ST FILE

Customised home care and daycare package among measures to support the elderly as population ages

There is often a lot of logistics involved in ensuring that frail seniors get the care they need.

Some of them need transportation to daycare centres or meals to be delivered. Others may need help in managing their medication and making medical appointments.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is working with care providers on a trial to offer these services, tailored to the specific needs of a senior, under the Integrated Home and Day Care package. It was among measures announced during the debate on the ministry's budget yesterday, aimed at supporting seniors as the population ages.

Ageing was on the mind of MPs, who spoke about issues such as standards of daycare services and ensuring the elderly age actively.

Fees for the Integrated Home and Day Care package can range from $1,100 to $2,200 per month, depending on the services needed, said MOH. But subsidies of up to 80 per cent are available to those who qualify.

  • $11 billion 

    Total bill; up 19 per cent from last year.

    400,000 

    Number of Singaporeans who have diabetes today.

    82.8 

    Projected average lifespan of Singaporeans born in 2014.

    4.9 million 

    Number of visits to polyclinics last year.

Ms Low Mui Lang, executive director of Peacehaven Nursing Home, which is involved in the trial, said the scheme will simplify things for seniors, who sometimes do not get the help they need because they want to avoid hassles.

The MOH will also be piloting an Integrated Operator Scheme this year to ensure that care is delivered seamlessly to the elderly even as their needs change.

Under this scheme, it will appoint operators that will offer all three services commonly needed by the elderly: nursing homes, eldercare centres and home care.

Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor said this could lead to economies of scale and result in more affordable care.

In a bid to ensure that seniors can get services they need within their own neighbourhoods, the MOH is also working with the Housing Board to build "Active Ageing Hubs" within new Build-to-Order developments.

These one-stop centres can serve a range of needs. For instance, they can provide active ageing programmes, daycare and rehabilitation services, or grocery delivery.

The ministry also hopes to encourage learning among seniors so they can age actively.

A new National Silver Academy will offer more than 10,000 learning places across 500 courses this year. Singaporeans aged 50 and above can start to register for courses from next month.

They will be able to take selected courses offered by the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities for a token fee, and will attend classes together with existing students.

"We hope (this) can not only fulfil seniors' aspirations to keep learning, but also help shape a new mindset regarding ageing,"said Dr Khor.

"I think having seniors learn with younger students in the same classroom will foster inter-generational interactions and... inspire our younger generation that learning does not stop at any age."

Turning to mental health issues, Dr Khor said the focus for her ministry will be on dementia.

Currently, the rate of dementia is about 10 per cent among seniors aged 60 and above.

With the number of those suffering from the condition likely to grow as the population ages, the Government has moved to increase the capacity of dementia care services in the community, she said.

By 2020, there will be 3,000 daycare places and 1,970 nursing home beds for those with dementia. There will be 160 elder-sitters.

There are also plans to help communities in towns such as MacPherson, Queenstown and Bedok become more dementia-friendly. Residents in these towns will be trained to provide assistance to people with dementia.

A "safe return" system for lost seniors will be piloted.

Said Dr Khor: "We need to rally the whole Singapore kampung to play a part in supporting seniors with dementia and their caregivers within our communities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Health What seniors need, care providers seek to meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe