Elderly Care Services for an Ageing Population in Singapore

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By Jocelyn Neo

Do you know the types of senior care services available in Singapore? With the ‘Silver Tsunami’ coming in 2030, it is good for Singaporeans to keep abreast of the eldercare services available here. These services include a variety of day care centres, nursing homes, activity centres and even support on caregiving for the elderly.

Eldercare Services

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) has a website listing the programmes funded or administered by the council, describing each type of service in detail: http://www.ncss.gov.sg/social_service/eldercare_services.asp

Some of these programmes include a counselling service, hospice services, befriending services and a Seniors Helpline. The latter offers counselling through the phone and also information on resources for caregivers and those aged 50 years and above.

Day Care Centres in Focus

In recent years, the Ministry of Health has announced that more day care centres, known as Senior Care Centres for the elderly, will be ready by this year. These centres offer numerous care services such as day care, dementia care, day rehabilitation and basic nursing services.

These centres such as St Luke’s Eldercare and Silver Circle run by NTUC Health are located in many parts of Singapore for easy access. There are also smaller centres within the neighbourhood that are not managed by these big operators.

At these centres, the elderly are supervised and provided with basic health checks. Exercises are conducted under the eyes of the centre officers. A series of socio-recreational activities such as singing, games and health talks are also planned for them. The centres also provide lunch and tea breaks. With such activities and care given to the elderly, it gives families a peace of mind while they are at work.

Some of these centres also offer caregiver training for caregivers, including foreign domestic workers.

Senior Activity Centres (SACs)

To help seniors age with dignity and grace, the then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) reported in 2012 that it is planning to open 56 new Senior Activity Centres islandwide by 2016. They will be located at most rental blocks or studio apartments, targetting those living alone. Operated by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) or commercial operators, senior citizens will have the chance to make new friends and partake in social activities such as lunch treats, singing, arts and crafts, and outings; there will also be services such as health checks and talks at these centres.

Here are some examples of Senior Activity Centre providers:

1)  SilverACE

Under NTUC Health Co-operative Limited, SilverACE has seven centres for vulnerable elderly staying in rental housing. Visit http://ntuchealth.sg/senior-activity-centres/.

 2) Lions Befrienders

Lions Befrienders has six Senior Activity Centres (SACs) that provide a wide array of meaningful activities and courses free-of-charge or at heavily subsidised rates to seniors. Visit http://www.lionsbefrienders.org.sg/senior-activity-centre-sac/.

 3) Thye Hua Kwan (THK)

THK has 14 SACs in Singapore offering socio-recreational programmes and activities for the elderly, helping them stay active and socially integrated. Visit http://www.thkmc.org.sg/.

Informal Caregiving

Other than day care centres, a portion of Singaporeans care for the elderly themselves. This is known as informal caregiving.

In 2012, the then-MCYS conducted a Survey on Informal Caregiving, interviewing Singaporeans aged 75 years and above who require assistance on at least one daily activity from their informal caregiver (a family member or friend who provides care to them and are not paid). These Activities of Daily Living (ADL) include taking a shower, walking inside the house, standing up, using the toilet and eating.

These caregivers are usually middle-aged women and a considerable group of them are single, albeit most are married. They provide care to elderly who have poor health and chronic diseases.

Among the respondents surveyed, it was found that many rely on foreign domestic workers to assist them in caring for their elderly at home. These workers help to reduce the stress of the caregivers and also provide emotional support.

The demand for foreign domestic workers is expected to increase with the ‘Silver Tsunami’. Eligible families can apply for the Foreign Domestic Worker Grant, which gives them a monthly grant of $120 to hire a worker to help care for their frail elderly. Visit https://www.silverpages.sg/FDWG to find out more.

According to a study by the Duke-NUS Medical School, these workers are mostly hired to take care of the elderly and not more than half of them have experience in taking care of old people. Despite this, most of these elderly are satisfied with the care provided by these workers.

Senior Citizens Who Live Alone

While some senior citizens are provided with care from their family, there is another group who live alone in low-end public housing. And living alone has caused them to have more depressive symptoms.

Local voluntary befrienders and welfare workers are giving attention to this group of people. For example, TOUCH Home Care’s Meals-on-Wheels programme recruits volunteers to deliver meals to homebound elderly who usually live alone, and volunteers of Lions Befrienders reach out to these lonely elders by befriending them through weekly home visits.

Those who are in poor health or require caregiving may be given the necessary assistance they require, such as being placed in nursing homes.

Even with the help of voluntary organisations, neighbours should try stepping in to care for this group of seniors too.

Keeping Abreast of Services Available

Other than the NCSS portal that provides information on eldercare services, the public can also visit the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) website (http://www.aic.sg) for details on day care centres near their homes. For those who are caring for their seniors and require support, an organisation that is able to help is TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCS) (http://www.caregivers.org.sg), a service by TOUCH Community Services.

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