Boosting support for caregivers of those who suffer loss of mental capacity

Ways to better support families caring for loved ones who suffer from a loss of mental capacity have been proposed by the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System (RERF).

Recommendations include providing training to deputies, who are persons appointed by the court to make decisions on behalf of someone, usually a family member who lacks mental capacity.

Others include rolling out initiatives to resolve disputes, increasing counselling support for deputies, as well as making the deputyship application simpler, faster and easier.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee revealed these proposals at the forum yesterday, as he noted how Singapore's ageing population would mean more are prone to losing mental capacity, given the prevalence of illnesses such as dementia.

As a result, Singapore can expect to see growing demand for deputyship under the Mental Capacity Act in the coming years, said Mr Lee. He added that the RERF Committee is looking at ways to support deputies as most are lay persons often unfamiliar with their legal obligations.

From the ministry's experience, having structured and timely caregiver support and counselling is key, said Mr Lee. He cited the case of a husband who was the sole deputy and caregiver for his wife but was not receptive to help from agencies. Unable to cope, he used extreme caregiving methods, such as placing restraints on his wife, until he accepted therapy to cope with his caregiver-induced stress.

Such cases, while uncommon, underscore the importance of timely interventions and adequate support for deputies, said Mr Lee, adding that deputyship appointments can fuel family tensions.

 

"If not addressed, they can damage the relationships between appointed deputies and disputing family members. When this happens, ultimately, it is their dependent loved ones who will suffer," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Boosting support for caregivers of those who suffer loss of mental capacity'. Print Edition | Subscribe