More help is on the way for residents in the South West District who are caregivers to elderly family members.
South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling yesterday announced three new initiatives by the South West Community Development Council (CDC) to better support caregivers, especially in an ageing society with smaller families.
One key initiative is the South West Caregiver Support Fund. Caregivers can receive interim financial assistance of $500 to help them pay for expenses like medical equipment and training in caregiving. It is meant to supplement national schemes that provide more long-term assistance.
For a start, a total of $150,000 will be set aside for 300 caregivers in the next three years.
They will also benefit from a reference guide, produced with the Agency for Integrated Care, which offers information and tips to help caregivers look after their loved ones and take care of their own emotional health.
The Care Guide booklet will be available at community clubs and social service organisations from the first quarter of next year.
OPEN UP TO OTHERS
It can be quite stressful, and I have to be home most of the time. Sometimes I feel sad, but I also learn to have patience, compassion and confidence that I can continue to take care of him. Most people are reluctant to talk about a family member with dementia, but I hope they can open up so they know they're not alone.
MR RICHARD ASHWORTH, who stopped work as an office manager 18 years ago to take care of his 85-year-old father, who has had various health problems and now has severe dementia.
The third initiative is a workplace advisory that the South West CDC produced together with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices and Workforce Singapore. It serves as a guide for employers to make workplaces more friendly for caregivers, through ideas like flexi-work arrangements.
In a speech yesterday, Ms Low said: "Besides finances, we are mindful of how the well-being of caregivers themselves can be affected by the load of caregiving."
She cited a study by Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing that found that 40 per cent to 60 per cent of caregivers of people with dementia suffer from significant stress.
She also said workplaces can be flexible and understanding, especially towards caregivers who have to juggle work demands and the need to accompany family members to doctors' appointments or therapy sessions.
"As our population ages, more of us will become caregivers, and many will need to continue to work to support the family and caregiving expenses," she said.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who attended yesterday's event, said caregivers play a vital role in supporting seniors, even as the Government ramps up community care services. He added that the Ministry of Health has started a review to strengthen support for senior caregiving.
By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be 65 years old and above, up from one in seven currently.
Encouraging more local efforts like those of the South West CDC, Mr Gan said: "All of us can lend a helping hand to the elderly and their caregivers. Every little action goes a long way."
At the age of 71, Madam Teo Ino Neo keeps herself busy and active by exercising and meeting friends, on top of taking care of her 90-year-old aunt with dementia and working part-time as an office cleaner.
Madam Teo, who was also a caregiver to her late mother and husband, said she hopes to learn new exercises to keep fit.
Another caregiver, Mr Richard Ashworth, stopped work as an office manager 18 years ago to take care of his father, who has had a host of health problems, from colon and skin cancer to high blood pressure. His 85-year-old father now has severe dementia.
"It can be quite stressful, and I have to be home most of the time," said the 64-year-old National Parks Board volunteer. He spends about $1,000 a month on consumables like diapers and medicine for his father.
"Sometimes I feel sad, but I also learn to have patience, compassion and confidence that I can continue to take care of him," said Mr Ashworth, who is unmarried.
"Most people are reluctant to talk about a family member with dementia, but I hope they can open up so they know they're not alone."