Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Weekend Respite Care service gives caregivers a break

Programme gives weekend respite to caregivers of seniors
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 15 Jul 2014

Caregivers of elderly family members will have more centres to turn to for help on weekends, with a programme officially launched by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

Administered by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), the Centre-Based Weekend Respite Care programme gives caregivers the option of leaving their elderly family members at the centres on Saturdays to take time off for work commitments, errands or to simply get some breathing space.

The programme will be introduced in three more centres over the next year, bringing the total number of centres that offer the initiative to 10.

Depending on demand, the AIC is considering extending these services to Sundays as well.

“Caregiving is no easy feat and many caregivers experience physical and emotional stress in taking care of their seniors,” said Mr Gan yesterday at the official opening of the Silver Circle Senior Care Centre yesterday at Serangoon Central.

“By giving them some time to take care of themselves, caregivers can also take better care of their seniors.”

Since the programme was introduced in April, 180 places have been available each weekend at seven centres across Singapore. They include Silver Circle at Serangoon Central and others located in Tampines, Sembawang, Bukit Batok and Toa Payoh.

When the three other centres introduce the service, starting with St Luke’s Eldercare in Yishun this September, there will be 280 places available each weekend.

When asked how the AIC will identify other suitable centres for this programme, Mr Eric Ho, senior manager of its Care Integration Division, said it works closely with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to identify suitable areas by studying a range of factors such as population demographics.

“We’ll find areas where there are gaps, and try and find providers who are there to try and meet the gaps,” he added.

Services provided at eldercare day centres under the programme include help with activities of daily living, such as eating and moving, medication administration, general exercise and social activity programmes.

Fees range from S$32 to S$72 for each weekend session before subsidies, but seniors are eligible for government funding of up to 80 per cent depending on household income, said Ms Caymania Low, head of Day Care Services at NTUC Health.

Fees are also dependent on the level of care required. Services for the elderly that require a higher level of care, such as those with dementia, will be higher, she added.

About 40 caregivers and elderly clients across the seven centres have benefitted since the programme’s introduction, such as Madam Tan, 76, and her 81-year-old sister who lives alone and suffers from schizophrenia. Mdm Tan said she enrolled her sister for the weekend service at Serangoon Central’s Silver Circle as she could no longer visit her frequently on weekends.

“If she stays at home alone, she’ll be staring at the walls. At least she has a chance to go out,” said Mdm Tan, adding that she has greater peace of mind knowing that her sister is being cared for on Saturdays.

In addition to the weekend respite programme, Silver Circle at Serangoon Central is also the first integrated one-stop centre providing health and social care services by NTUC Health, a new alliance between NTUC Eldercare and NTUC Unity Healthcare Co-operative.

Services at the centre include day care, dementia care, rehabilitation and nursing services.

Having cared for more than 200 seniors since it opened this year, the Serangoon centre is part of the MOH’s priority of developing “good home and community-based care options to allow seniors to age gracefully at home and in the community”, said Mr Gan.

“MOH will continue to systematically build more such senior care centres to bring integrated aged care services closer to seniors,” he added, as he reiterated the ministry’s target to add more than 3,000 day-care places by 2020.

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