Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the Caregiver Symposium, 3 February 2018
Mr Kelvin Lim, Chief, Senior Support & Carer Services Development Division, Agency for Integrated Care
Dr Saamdu Chetri, Visiting Professor for Rekhi Centre of Excellence for Science of Happiness under IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kharagpur
Ladies and Gentlemen
First, let me start by thanking all caregivers present for taking time to be here today. Your participation today shows your dedication and commitment to doing more for your loved ones.
2. Caregiving is certainly not an easy task. Caregivers play a critical role supporting their loved ones through treatment, in their daily living activities and mental wellbeing. Many caregivers put their loved ones’ needs first and very often neglect their own wellbeing. We hope today’s symposium can help caregivers on their caregiving journey. Through discussing the importance of self-care and support available for our caregivers, we look forward to supporting caregivers in better self-care to provide better care for their loved ones.
3. Caregiving will grow in tandem with our ageing population. One in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above by 2030, compared to about one in seven last year. With our ageing population and many seniors aspiring to live and age at home, more Singaporeans will take on the role of caregivers. We are committed to providing more support for our caregivers.
4. To support caregivers and prevent burnout, public sector agencies need to work together to develop resources that empower and support our caregivers and their families. We need to equip our care professionals with the right skills and knowledge to serve caregivers.
CAREGIVER SUPPORT AVAILABLE
5. First, we are providing training to caregivers. There is a range of community resources to support caregivers, such as caregiver training to boost caregivers’ confidence and skill in caring for our seniors, persons with disabilities and mental health conditions like dementia. In fact, we have over 240 caregiver training courses available on a variety of topics from managing day-to-day care, caring for those with dementia or intellectual disabilities, to clinical skills such as tube feeding and stoma care. To make such courses affordable, there is an annual Caregivers Training Grant of $200 and annually about 8,000 caregivers � including family members and their Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) � tap on this grant.
6. Second, we are expanding resources for caregivers to tap on. For frail seniors or those with dementia, there are available day and home care services. These include day care services offered at Senior Care Centres that allow working caregivers to go to work with peace of mind and home care services such as Meals-on-Wheels and home personal care support for frail seniors. Currently, there are over 100 eldercare centres providing about 5,000 day care places island-wide and over 8,000 home care spaces. This capacity is set to increase to 6,200 day care spaces and 10,000 home care spaces in 2020.
7. We understand that caregivers who look after our seniors may require respite services to take a break and avoid burnout. These respite services are available at selected day care centres and nursing homes and to date, over 1,600 people have tapped on these respite care services. Caregivers of those with dementia can also arrange for an eldersitter to engage their loved ones at home for a few hours. So far, over 1,200 seniors have been supported through this arrangement.
8. Caregivers who require FDW support, especially those new to caregiving and need such support urgently, can quickly hire a FDW trained in eldercare from over 40 participating employment agencies under our Eldercarer FDW Scheme. To date, more than 270 families have tapped onto this scheme.
9. 63 year old Retiree Margaret Ng, who is the primary caregiver to her parents, recently hired a FDW under the Eldercarer FDW Scheme. Her father has been bed-bound since 2013 after a fall. Her mother has dementia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Her new helper has been caring for her father by tube feeding him and giving him sponge baths. Having someone who is trained in caregiving is of great help to Margaret. Thanks to her training, the FDW is also able get into the full swing of caregiving quickly to care for Margaret’s father.
10. Caregivers can also tap on the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) which provides subsidies to purchase assistive devices such as wheelchairs. To offset the cost of hiring domestic helper, besides the FDW Levy Concession, families can also apply for the FDW Grant.
11. Third, we are putting in place more social support for caregivers. Caregivers can join caregiver support groups for emotional support. By sharing experiences with fellow caregivers, they can receive mental and social support from peers, and pick up useful caregiving tips and knowledge. These groups are available in hospitals, community and online. Two such groups are NCSS member organisations AWWA and Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) which have developed a network of caregiver support groups to allow caregivers to share their experiences and support one another.
12. The Social Service Institute, the Human Capital Development Arm of NCSS, also has relevant courses to equip our care professionals to support caregivers. The range of topics include assessing the wellbeing of caregivers, understanding the emotions and challenges of caregiving, and learning how to support and collaborate with family caregivers in their caregiving journey. This better enables our care providers to also take care of the caregiver while they serve their clients.
13. One of our speakers today, Mr Yong Cheng Huat, a caregiver to two sons with special needs, can testify on the importance of professionals being equipped to support caregivers. In the early years of Cheng Huat’s caregiving journey, healthcare and social service practitioners were focused on servicing their clients over supporting the needs of caregivers. He experienced emotional fatigue and frustration but is heartened that today, he is able to seek support from our care professionals who are more equipped to support caregivers.
MORE SUPPORT ON THE WAY
14. We will continue to do more to support caregivers and their loved ones. An area we are enhancing is to increase transport and escort options for caregivers and their care recipients.
15. uberASSIST was launched in November 2017, in partnership with AIC, as an added transport option for caregivers to get around with their loved ones for daily routines and medical appointments. It supplements existing options used by those without their own transport, such as specialised vans and taxis. Over 600 uberASSIST drivers have been trained to support seniors and persons with disabilities who need assistance to get in and out of a car. They are also trained to communicate with those with dementia.
16. For help to accompany seniors to medical appointments, caregivers currently tap on the Medical Escort and Transport (MET) service offered by nine existing Community Care providers who provide the transport via specialised vans and staff to escort the seniors. They now make about 2,000 such trips monthly.
17. In closing, let me reiterate the importance of caregivers in helping their loved ones to live and age well at home and in the community. They need to stay well and strong for their loved ones. On the government’s part, we are committed to support our caregivers and would like to encourage caregivers to tap on the resources available. I wish you a fruitful symposium ahead. Thank you.
Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore