More help to give caregivers a break

A pilot scheme that aims to give caregivers a breather from their duties has been expanded, with the programme now available at more than 40 nursing homes, up from 15 in 2013.

The Nursing Home Respite Care programme allows caregivers to leave their loved ones at a nursing home for up to 30 days.

The programme, which is run by the Agency for Integrated Care, has served more than 900 clients from its launch up to last December.

Speaking at the Silver Caregivers Cooperative's (SCCL) annual celebration dinner in Tanjong Pagar last night, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor paid tribute to caregivers, a group which has been growing over the years as Singapore's population ages.

"Caregiving is a long journey and caregivers too, need breaks to recharge," she said.

The Government has also been stepping up support services for caregivers, she added.

For example, the number of homecare places has been expanded from 3,800 in 2011 to the current 7,500, and the Government is on track to meet its goal of providing 10,000 homecare places by 2020.

In addition to the Nursing Home Respite Care scheme, other recent initiatives have also seen a good response.

These include the Singapore Silver Line, which provides information about eldercare services and available grants. It has received more than 125,000 calls since its 2014 launch.

The helpline on 1800-650-6060 operates from 8.30am to 8.30pm on weekdays, and from 8.30am to 4pm on Saturdays.

A social enterprise that started in 2013, the SCCL conducts workshops and seminars to help the increasing number of caregivers here with their role.

Yesterday, the group also announced a scheme that would train experienced caregivers on how to provide emotional and psychological support for the elderly and match them with newer caregivers.

Four mentors have already been trained under a pilot three-day programme that was started last month.

Ms Audrey Lee, SCCL's chairman, said the group hopes to train 20 mentors by the end of this year. The mentors, who are experienced caregivers, will be taught to help other new caregivers through the course, which costs $1,000 for mentors and $600 for mentees.

Ms N. Rajaletchumiy, 62, joined the programme last month as one of the four mentors to help others better manage relationships with loved ones.

She had spent about seven years as the main caregiver for her late mother, who suffered from high blood pressure and an enlarged heart before she died in 2007.

"When (your parent) suddenly becomes dependent on you, the change in your relationship can be quite tough to handle. But I learnt some soft skills through this course that can help me better manage such relationships, such as by providing a listening ear and giving them comfort," said the assistant supervisor at a daycare centre.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'More help to give caregivers a break'. Print Edition | Subscribe