Health Ministry to review support for caregivers of seniors

Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong at a community engagement event for seniors with dementia and their caregivers on Oct 23, 2018.
Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong at a community engagement event for seniors with dementia and their caregivers on Oct 23, 2018.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - A review is underway to improve support for caregivers of seniors.

The initiative includes looking at ways to empower caregivers and how to make it easier for them to find the support they need, said Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong on Tuesday (Oct 23).

Mr Tong noted the growing need for caregivers among Singapore's rapidly ageing population.

"We want the elderly to age in place, and to do that we must have a strong caregiver support system," he said. "I think there are some gaps, so we want to review it (and) see how we can strengthen it."

The Health Ministry started consulting caregivers, care providers and other industry professionals for the review last month. It expects to complete consultations by the end of the year, and put out a set of recommendations in 2019.

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be over 65. At the same time, smaller family sizes mean that the old-age support ratio will drop from 4.8 to 2.1 in that time.

Mr Tong said that many caregivers are not young and may find the work physically demanding. "Sometimes, getting peer support is a challenge," Mr Tong said, adding that it is important to make sure caregivers know where to look for help.

"It's well and good to have broad systemic options, but it's of no use if caregivers don't know about them," he added.

Mr Tong was speaking on the sidelines of a community engagement event for seniors with dementia and their caregivers.

The "Happy Kopitiam" sessions, organised by social service organisation Montfort Care, aim to help participants keep mentally and physically healthy. They also act as an informal support group for caregivers to share their experiences.

Madam Ang Ah Gek, 60, attends the sessions weekly and finds that they help her to relieve the stress of caring for her 81-year-old mother.

"It's difficult to care for her," said Madam Ang, who is on long-term medical leave because of a knee problem. "It is a lot of stress for me."

Those who want to give feedback on caregiving can e-mail the Health Ministry at wecare@moh.gov.sg