Multi-agency team to review senior care; one change could see a centralised system for data

SINGAPORE - A review of the care senior citizens receive has been launched with the aim of making it more holistic.

And a big part of the review will be to improve coordination and communication within the Community Network for Seniors (CNS). The programme was piloted in April 2016 with the goal of enhancing integration and the pooling of resources for elderly-related services.

More than a year on, the various agencies involved with the CNS say there is room for improvement.

For instance, information on seniors' health and social well-being are split between several agencies, forcing anyone who wants access to these records to go to these agencies separately, said programme director of the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO), Mr David Neo.

PGO is one of the organisations which help with CNS, along with government agencies, voluntary welfare organisations (VWO), grassroots and community groups.

Mr Neo said that there are now plans to build a single system to hold all this information.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, speaking at the third anniversary dinner of the PGO-Tampines as the guest of honour on Friday (Nov 3), said: "Coordination on the ground is not always easy. Seniors with several needs may be served by multiple service providers, all of whom may not have a holistic picture of his or her social and health needs."

Other issues faced include a repetition of efforts, said Mr Neo.

"You can have a senior who needs adult diapers, and you'll find two to three VWOs all giving her adult diapers, so that she has one big pile of them at home," he said. "At the same time, she'll have other needs that are not being fulfilled, like being befriended, or escorted to medical services."

With this review, he hoped that there would be an optimisation of efforts to help these seniors.

Mr Neo said that the review also aimed to train volunteers to take on more responsibility.

"Now they mainly communicate schemes and policies. But starting from February next year, we'll train them to be a better sensor when it comes to seniors with needs."

He said that volunteers would learn how to identify and categorise how frail seniors are, so that they could then receive the appropriate help. Eventually, he added, volunteers would be able to detect problems early, so that seniors can be prevented from getting frail in the first place.

Mr Heng, in his speech, said that "we must learn from the existences of the CNS pilots" through the multi-agency review, adding: "The outcome of these discussions could be in the form of new processes or better use of technology."

The review, which will involve the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the People's Association and the Agency for Integrated Care, began this year.

Mr Neo said there is no end date yet as it depends on what the review finds.

The pilot began in Choa Chu Kang, Marine Parade and Tampines GRCs.

More than 1,000 seniors in total attend active ageing programmes in the three sites. More than 600 who live alone have been linked up with either a befriender, neighbour volunteer or a telephone-befriending service. Almost 800 seniors with complex needs have been referred to the Ministry of Health for further assistance.

In July, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the CNS programme will expand to more constituencies.

Volunteer Betty Lim, 62, who has been a Pioneer Generation Ambassador since 2014, liked that she would be getting more training.

"It is good, because when we go to do our outreach we can then observe whether the seniors need help, and so get more involved in their well-being," said Ms Lim.