Forum: More substantial support needed for the sandwich generation

The Government has done a lot for Pioneer and Merdeka generation citizens.

But more could be done to help the sandwich generation who care for their children and elderly parents all living under one roof.

Existing support, such as the maid levy waiver and the Community Health Assist Scheme, are inadequate, especially for caregivers who quit their jobs to care for their families full-time.

I struggled with the demands and responsibilities of caring for my mother when her health deteriorated a year before she died in June 2002.

She had no MediShield coverage, and her savings were depleted, largely because of medical expenses. Her chronic illnesses over more than a decade started with hypertension and diabetes, resulting in strokes, heart disease requiring a heart bypass operation, leg amputation and kidney failure.

Every hospital stay had to be covered using funds from my MediSave account or my brother's.

These expenses placed an increasing strain on our family's expenses. Just the monthly supply of dialysis solution then cost at least $2,000.

My parents sold their three-room flat, and over time, used up the money to help pay for their medical bills.

Eventually, my mum became practically blind, bedridden, required 24/7 assistance and went into depression. As her main caregiver, I was also mentally and physically drained.

It was a similar situation when my father's health declined a few years ago.

I was working then but failed to get approval for no-pay leave and exhausted all my leave to care for him.

That was when I decided to quit my job and work part-time to have the flexibility to care for him.

I also felt I needed to spend more time with him during his last years. It was the same with my mum. Their greater need for emotional support and their fears throughout their frequent hospital stays could not be adequately met and resolved through brief visits to the hospital.

But since my father's death in February 2020 and likely due to my age - I'm 59 - I have been unable to get a full-time job. I am still supporting my three sons, who are in university.

I did not expect myself to be without a full-time job, but accepted this to care for my dad.

I am satisfied now working part-time, but I know there will be more like me who will need greater help from the Government.

More substantial support is needed for the sandwich generation who support their ageing parents and their own family.

The additional support should look into helping those whose parents live with them, and to create new work policies that include additional leave or no-pay leave to look after ailing parents, as well as a more flexible work arrangement.

Vincent Ong Hock Meng

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