Ms Tan Sok Meng used to sacrifice outings with her three children every Saturday to be at home with her ageing mother.
"My mother can walk but I worried that she would fall if she was left alone at home," said the 52-year-old credit manager, whose husband works overseas.
But a new weekend respite care service to give caregivers of the elderly a welcome break has given Ms Tan a breather on Saturdays while her 87-year-old mother is cared for at Sasco Hong Kah North Day Care Centre in Bukit Batok.
More caregivers like Ms Tan will be able to benefit when the scheme is expanded to 10 centres next year, adding 80 more places for the elderly.
Word spread quickly - about 60 elderly people now turn up each weekend, up from about 40 when the scheme was launched two months ago.
There are currently about 200 places available every weekend at eight centres across the island, in areas such as Toa Payoh, Telok Blangah and Tampines.
Clients get meals and can take part in exercise or social activities, while caregivers take time off to attend to work commitments, run errands or get some rest.
Fees range from $36 to $68 for a weekend session, which is typically from 8am to 5pm, but families with a lower household income are eligible for funding of up to 80 per cent.
Some centres also offer care on Sundays.
A spokesman for the Agency for Integrated Care, which runs the programme, said: "We expect demand to continue to increase and we are working with more service providers to introduce this service at their eldercare centres."
Such services are set to grow because it is important to support caregivers of the elderly, said Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State for Health, last week.
"Caring for our elderly takes collaborative effort from the community and I encourage everyone to play (their) part and work together," he said at the Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. The home offers the weekend care service too.
There were around 400,000 people aged 65 and above last year, and the number is expected to hit 900,000 by 2030.
Ms Tan said: "I used to have to forgo all my activities on Saturdays. But now I can have some time for myself, whether it's to go out and take a break, or get some work and errands done."
This article was first published on September 09, 2014.
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