Rethinking Singapore's care economy

Singapore is on the cusp of a major demographic shift with an ageing population.

The time is ripe to disrupt some conventional models of home care so that we can better enable our elderly to thrive at home.

The current reliance on domestic workers to be universal helpers, chaperones and caregivers all in one is unrealistic and unsustainable ("Maids: Essential, or a luxury?"; June 5).

We need to reframe our conversation about how and who can deliver care at home.

The current model of home care is based on the assumption that medical professionals (nurses and allied health workers) should strive to deliver medical care, in lieu of doctors.

Highly trained medical professionals are deployed to look after the medical conditions of patients in their homes. The next level of home care below that is home help services.

There is a gap between the two levels that can be filled with community caregivers.

These are lay individuals who are trained to perform tasks that are necessary but often repetitive and do not require medical professionals.

Such training is shorter and more focused, and we can build a structured and meaningful career path for these community caregivers, who can include those from the silver segment.

Their roles and compensation can evolve with their skills competency. For instance, they can go beyond just delivering personal home care, and do monitoring tasks such as blood pressure and blood sugar tests.

There is tremendous potential in the pool of existing informal and unpaid caregivers, who are already performing such functions for their loved ones.

A 2012 Survey on Informal Caregiving commissioned by the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports showed that 60 per cent of caregivers were women, 85 per cent were 45 years old and above, and 26 per cent were never married.

Financial adequacy is also a challenge, as 47 per cent of caregivers were not working.

Together with community caregivers, these informal caregivers can be engaged in a sharing-economy model - a "caregiving Uber".

This can be achieved by encouraging collaboration between established healthcare institutions and voluntary welfare organisations active in this space.

Kelvin Aw


Caregiving Welfare Association

Anthea Ong (Ms)


Society for Wings

• Forum Note: Society for Wings promotes active ageing among women

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline Rethinking Singapore's care economy. Subscribe