Subsidised home safety fixtures for more seniors

The HDB installed eight grab bars and applied slip-resistant chemical treatment in one bathroom in Madam Eng Bok Hua's four-room flat. The total cost was around $750 but she needed to pay only $56.20.
The HDB installed eight grab bars and applied slip-resistant chemical treatment in one bathroom in Madam Eng Bok Hua's four-room flat. The total cost was around $750 but she needed to pay only $56.20.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hospital referrals help patients to enjoy HDB scheme despite not meeting criteria

As a 64-year-old housewife, Madam Eng Bok Hua was too young to qualify for a programme which subsidises the installation of elderly-friendly fixtures such as grab bars and ramps in flats.

But a system in which two local hospitals can highlight critical cases to the Housing Board (HDB) has got her the help she needed after she fractured her hip.

The Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme, which was launched in July 2012, requires one of two qualifying criteria to be filled.

It is open to Singaporean households with a member aged 70 and above, or with someone between 65 and 69 who requires assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing or feeding. These families can apply for Ease directly with the HDB.

In November 2012, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) were roped in. Between then and the end of last year, they have referred about 1,300 cases to HDB - which means 100 more beneficiaries each month.

Madam Eng was one of those cases.

She used to keep active by taking daily walks at the exercise park near her Yishun home, but her life was upended when she fell and sustained a hairline hip fracture last September.

She was discharged from hospital after two weeks, but a walking frame did little to ease her pain.

"It was very hard for her to walk, go to the bathroom, shower, everything," said her husband, Mr Oh Kin Boon, 70, a vegetable seller.

Frequent visits to an occupational therapist finally led to KTPH filing an Ease request on her behalf in late November. By the next month, the HDB had installed eight grab bars and applied slip-resistant chemical treatment in one bathroom in her four-room Yishun flat.

Madam Eng was billed $56.20 - just 7.5 per cent of the total cost of around $750.

The size of the subsidy depends on the flat.

One- to three-roomers pay the least, with the Government absorbing 95 per cent of the cost. Without the subsidy, a household that picks all the fixtures would have to pay $2,000. A total of $260 million has been set aside by the Government to fund Ease, which had already catered to 20,000 households by the end of last year.

An HDB spokesman said that under the referral programme, the board will help those who do not fulfil the age criteria on a case-by-case basis. "So far, we have helped all the cases referred," she said.

The board added that it is looking at expanding the referral arrangement to more hospitals.

TTSH senior manager of occupational therapy Florence Cheong said the programme helps less mobile seniors remain independent.

For Madam Eng, the retrofitting means she can move about slowly but surely. "I don't need to be a prisoner on the bed or the couch."

rachelay@sph.com.sg