New grant to ease burden on home-based caregivers

Madam Oei Lian Eng with her husband, Mr Tan Sue Hoai, who is her sole caregiver. She suffered a stroke which left her paralysed on one side of her body and unable to care for herself. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Since his wife suffered a stroke five years ago, Mr Tan Sue Hoai has been taking care of her daily needs - bathing her, preparing her meals, helping her to use the bathroom and even carrying her to bed.

"This is me fulfilling my promise to her at our wedding - that when one of us has problems, the other takes care of him or her," said the 73-year-old retiree, who has been married to Madam Oei for 30 years.

Mr Tan had contemplated sending his wife to a nursing home when the stroke left the left side of her body paralysed, but she expressed her wish to stay at their three-room flat in Bedok.

On weekdays, 66-year-old Madam Oei spends much of her time in a daycare centre near their home, where she does rehabilitation exercises and interacts with other seniors in activities such as karaoke and games.

Mr Tan uses his monthly Central Provident Fund payout of $300, coupled with his savings, to pay for their combined monthly expenses of $500 to $600.

These include fees for the daycare services, utilities, food and household essentials.

" We rarely go out. If there's a function nearby - like a community centre dinner or a getai performance - I will wheel her there," said Mr Tan, who added that transporting his wife to places further away can cost around $100 for a round trip.

A new Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) of $200 will be introduced by the Ministry of Health by the end of this year to defray the costs of home and community-based long-term caregivers of people with permanent moderate disabilities.

To qualify, these individuals must require assistance with at least three activities of daily living - namely bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, transferring such as from bed to chair, and moving from room to room - regardless of age.

The means-tested grant will replace the existing Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Grant of $120 per month. In addition to offsetting the costs of hiring an FDW, caregivers can use the grant for other caregiving expenses, such as the costs of senior care centre services and homecare services, as well as transportation to medical appointments.

Mr Tan said that although the new grant might help to relieve the couple's financial burden a little, they will still not be able to afford a domestic helper.

"I'll do everything myself while I still can," said Mr Tan, although he worries that he might not be able to take care of his wife as he gets older.

"I worry about the day I'm unable to take care of her. I worry about what might happen to her if I were to go first."

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