Greater support for caregivers, seniors

As Singapore's ageing population grows, so too will its number of caregivers. A new action plan focusing on providing more support for caregivers aims to help them better manage their responsibilities and stress levels.
As Singapore's ageing population grows, so too will its number of caregivers. A new action plan focusing on providing more support for caregivers aims to help them better manage their responsibilities and stress levels.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A Caregiver Support Action Plan will be rolled out to better help those looking after the elderly and infirm as the population ages and Singaporeans live longer. The Ministry of Health (MOH) held 19 focus group discussions involving over 200 people from last September to get a sense of these caregivers' needs and concerns. Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong announced plans that MOH and partner agencies will embark on in five broad areas.

GETTING CARE

MORE COUNTERS FOR CAREGIVERS, SENIORS TO GET INFORMATION

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has eight counters at acute and community hospitals and its Maxwell Road office for people to find out about a range of services for caregivers and those they look after. It will set up four more counters at Silver Generation Office locations in Choa Chu Kang, Nee Soon, Pasir Ris and Toa Payoh by the second half of this year as a start.

ENHANCED DIGITAL PLATFORMS FOR PEOPLE TO SEEK HELP

A beta version of a website will be launched by the end of the year to give Singaporeans and their caregivers information, as well as services related to their end-of-life journey, including advance care planning and going about getting a Lasting Power of Attorney, which involves appointing a person or persons to make decisions on their behalf should they lose their mental capacity.

AIC will also develop a health marketplace e-platform by 2020 for caregivers to browse through feedback and ratings before buying goods or engaging services such as medical transport.

It will also revamp the Singapore Silver Pages at www.silverpages.sg


FINANCIAL SUPPORT

$200 A MONTH GRANT TO DEFRAY COSTS

The Ministry of Health will introduce a new Home Caregiving Grant by end-2019 to defray the costs of caring for persons with permanent moderate disabilities, that is, those who need some help with at least three activities of daily living.

These are: washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, walking or moving around and transferring from a bed to chair or wheelchair.

This grant will complement severe disability schemes such as ElderShield and CareShield Life by providing support when care recipients are still able to perform these activities with some assistance.

This grant will be means-tested, and replaces the existing Foreign Domestic Worker Grant of $120 a month, giving caregivers more flexibility to defray caregiving expenses.

EXPANDING MEDISAVE USE TO COVER SIBLINGS' HEALTHCARE EXPENSES

By end-2019, CPF members will be able to use their Medisave funds to cover the healthcare expenses of their siblings who are Singaporeans or PRs. Currently, they can do so for spouses, parents, children and grandparents.


EMPOWERING & TRAINING CAREGIVERS

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has a network of 34 community outreach teams to identify persons with dementia or mental health conditions, refer them to services and assistance, and provide them with emotional support.

 
 
 

Some of these teams will begin to focus on caregivers who have or are at risk of developing depression, anxiety and burnout due to their roles. They will engage them on stress management, planning, and link them up with support groups and counselling where needed.

CAREGIVER SUPPORT NETWORKS

AIC will grow caregiver support networks across dementia-friendly communities (DFCs) to provide platforms for caregivers and their loved ones to stay active, and leverage on the social capital among people with common experiences for socio-emotional support. There are two caregiver support networks in Queenstown and MacPherson DFCs, and these will be expanded to five by end-2019. AIC will also work closely with grassroots organisations to strengthen caregiver support.

ENHANCED ELDERCARE TRAINING

AIC will work with training providers to train foreign domestic workers early in their employment and to offer caregiver skills courses to better support those they assist by the second half of this year.


RESPITE FOR CAREGIVERS

WHY RESPITE SERVICE IS NEEDED

Some caregivers might require the respite at short notice due to their own exigencies. They cannot always anticipate when they might themselves fall ill or when they may have an urgent matter to deal with.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH EDWIN TONG

NIGHT RESPITE SERVICE FOR CAREGIVERS OF SENIORS WITH DEMENTIA

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will pilot a new night respite service with selected nursing home providers for caregivers of seniors with dementia who experience behavioural and sleep issues at night.

This will let caregivers, especially those who work or care for the senior in the day, to get some rest. Seniors will be engaged through cognitive activities and tasks to help manage their behavioural and sleep issues. The pilot is expected to start in the second half of 2019.

HOME-BASED RESPITE OPTION FOR CAREGIVERS OF END-OF-LIFE PATIENTS

This service will be piloted for cancer patients receiving palliative care at home from mid-2019, as end-of-life care can be physically and emotionally challenging.

Caregivers will get temporary relief with tasks such as showering, dressing and feeding patients.

PRE-ENROLMENT PILOT TO SHORTEN ACTIVATION TIME FOR RESPITE SERVICES

AIC will pilot a pre-enrolment system with a number of senior care centres and nursing homes to register them and their caregivers early so that administrative processes such as assessing eligibility for subsidies can be done beforehand.


WORKPLACE SUPPORT

WORKING TOGETHER

All caregivers are committed to providing the best care possible for their loved ones. They don't complain, and they are often determined and resilient in overcoming the challenges that come their way. Caregiving journeys may be long, but we can go the distance, if families and communities come together to support caregivers in our midst.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH EDWIN TONG

HELP WITH FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS, AND MORE

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is exploring increasing the budget for its Work-Life Grant, which was first introduced in 2013 to help companies offer flexible work arrangements to staff.

The grant was extended and enhanced in July last year so that companies can get some funding so long as one or more employees adopt flexible work arrangements.

Working caregivers have expressed the importance of such work arrangements to help them balance their work and caregiving commitments.

Currently, companies can tap the grant and receive up to $105,000 over a two-year period when employees adopt flexible work, such as flexi-load, flexi-place or flexi-time, arrangements.

MOM will share more details during the debate on its budget next month.

MOM and the Ministry of Health will also reach out to caregivers to raise awareness of the Adapt and Grow initiative, which provides employment facilitation and support for job seekers, such as job matching, training and wage subsidies. This will help care-givers return to work, especially if they have not been employed for some time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Greater support for caregivers, seniors'. Print Edition | Subscribe