SINGAPORE: As part of the Health Ministry’s review to see how it can better support community care, the Government is looking at providing financial assistance to caregivers of the elderly.
Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong said this on Friday (Jan 18) after a dialogue session with caregiving service providers.
He noted that while there are several financial assistance schemes for people who go to nursing homes or to buy mobility devices, the playing field may not be as level for care in the home and community setting.
“We want our seniors to age in place, to be in the community for as long as they can, to be cared for by people they know and (who) love them,” said Mr Tong. “So we want to see if we can assist that financially, to give them some assistance for expenses, to defray some of the costs they will invariably incur.”
The need for financial assistance came up in Friday’s dialogue session, as well as in focus group discussions with caregivers that were held from September to December last year.
On top of providing grants, authorities are looking at allowing the flexible use of financial assistance, Mr Tong added.
“No two caregivers are similar, and the care recipients might need different things at different stages of their care journey,” he added, explaining the need for flexibility as a key feature in financial assistance for these caregivers. Examples of what the grants could be used for include domestic help, diapers and medication.
BETTER RESPITE CARE OPTIONS, WORK ARRANGEMENTS FOR CAREGIVERS
For 61-year-old Siti Hamidah Abdullah Bahashwan, her world turned on its head two years ago after her mother suffered a stroke that left her bedbound. Madam Hamidah, a part-time counsellor, became her mother’s primary caregiver.
“I was not able to cope personally. I guess what would have been helpful is a shoulder to cry on and to be able to know what to do at that critical stage, she said.
She currently spends about S$2,000 on her mother’s needs every month, and while the cost is shared among her and her siblings, financial help will ease the burden, she said.
Mdm Hamidah added that having more options for temporary respite care, which offers short-term relief for caregivers, would go a long way. Although the family copes with the help of a maid, Mdm Hamidah said she still struggles when the maid goes on leave.
These are all areas that the Government is looking into, said Mr Tong.
“We are trying to see whether we can pilot some respite options working with community respite givers to see whether we can give respite care at short notice, and also to broaden options available to caregivers who are in need of respite care,” he said.
Other areas that need improvement which the ministry will be looking at are the navigation of help available to caregivers and flexible work arrangements.
Mr Tong said that the Health Ministry will look at working with the Ministry of Manpower to foster a flexible work culture in a ground-up manner as opposed to imposing it on employers.
He also suggested bringing caregivers together so that they can share their experience with others who can empathise with their situation.
The Health Ministry had previously said that caregivers play an increasingly important role as Singapore's population ages, noting that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be over 65 years old.