Govt exploring options to encourage home care of elderly sick

SINGAPORE : Health Minister and chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, Gan Kim Yong, has said that the government "will look at all kinds of possible support" to encourage families to care for their elderly family members at home.

For one, more households can look forward to receiving help right at their doorstep.

The government will be beefing up healthcare facilities and support for the elderly as Singapore braces itself for a silver tsunami.

It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 117,000 seniors who are semi—ambulant or non—ambulant — more than 2.5 times that of today.

Even as plans are underway to ramp up the number of nursing—home beds by some 70 per cent to 15,600, what the government wants to do is to "tilt" its subsidies to make it cheaper for families to look after their elderly sick at home, instead of sending them to a nursing home.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia after a Budget Forum, Mr Gan said financial incentives alone are not enough to shift the mindset of Singaporeans, and the government has to further reach out to residents to encourage them to adopt home care.

At the same time, more day care facilities will be built.

Mr Gan explained: "In the day time, they can receive treatment therapy as well as social integration within the community. Medically, it is very important for these elderly, especially the elderly frail...because the family support, the care and the love is a very important part of therapy, and therefore (we) really want to encourage those who can be cared for at home to do so."

He added: "This will include building day care facilities in the vicinity so these elderly sick can be cared for in the day facilities. They do not have to travel all the way to the hospitals or to treatment centres. These facilities will just be downstairs at the void deck or nearby facilities, so this is an important part of the strategy to facilitate home care."

The newly—announced S$120 Foreign Domestic Worker grant will also help support home care.

But to qualify for the grant, employers must send their domestic helpers for training on how to care for the elderly sick.

Home care providers such as NTUC Eldercare and TOUCH Community Services said they expect demand for such training to rise.

Priscilla Teo, head of TOUCH Caregivers Support at TOUCH Community Services, said: "After the Budget speech, we have received calls (enquiring) how they can get this S$120 grant. In TOUCH, we believe that the demand will continue to increase because of the ageing population and the growing need of caregivers who want to care for their loved ones at home.

"Other than full—time therapists and nurses, we have a group of part—time therapists and nurses who are able to meet the demand when the need arises."

There are about 20 organisations offering training in intermediate and long—term care for caregivers.

— CNA/ms