MADAM Tan Sok Meng had been looking for help to take care of her 89-year-old mother on weekends.
Her mother is cared for at the Hong Kah North Day Care Centre from Mondays to Fridays.
But on some weekends, Madam Tan, 52, needs some free time to run errands and do some of her chores. However, since a fall a few years ago, her mother cannot be left alone.
Her mother, Madam Yeow Ah Thong, who is frail and suffers from kidney failure, high blood pressure and anaemia, is at risk of falling again, doctors have warned.
The stockbroker's frantic hunt for help on weekends ended when Hong Kah North Day Care Centre joined seven other centres to offer weekend respite care last July.
Like Madam Tan, more than 70 families have found great relief with the launch of this service.
Two more centres will start to offer weekend care by April. Together, the 10 centres, which are scattered around the island, will be able to care for 240 seniors of varying disabilities each weekend.
Currently, many slots are still available for those who need occasional weekend care, but those providing the service expect this to change when more come to know about the service.
This service complements another one under which 17 nursing homes offer care for a few days or weeks.
That scheme, launched in May 2013, has helped the families of more than 330 seniors, who spent an average of 23 days in the nursing homes.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) hopes that offering such services will make it easier for families to continue caring for their older relatives at home.
An MOH spokesman said: "Caregiving is not an easy feat. Respite care is one of the key support strategies to allow caregivers to take a much-needed break and recharge."
The top reasons given for using the nursing home respite service include times when the maid, often the main caregiver, is away on home leave; and the caregiver needing medical treatment herself or himself, or wishing to go overseas for a holiday.
Under the weekend respite care scheme, the families can leave an elderly relative at a centre for a few hours, or even a whole day, while they go about their own activities.
Madam Tan said: "Now, on Saturdays, I can go out and do things such as going marketing with the maid, without worrying about my mother."
Another caregiver, Madam Loe Kam Kheow, 66, likes it that she now has the option of leaving her 76-year-old husband in the hands of a trained caregiver on weekends with the opening of this centre.
She said: "I like to spend time with him on weekends, as he already goes to day care during the week."
But there are times when there are chores that need to be attended to, she said.
Her husband, Mr Foo Tiang Toen, suffers from dementia and diabetes, which has affected his eyesight. His frailty makes leaving him alone at home unsafe, but also makes taking him out difficult.
Madam Loe used the nursing home respite service at the Sree Narayana Mission Home in Yishun in November last year for 10 days, and felt totally recharged after the break.
It was the first break she had since her husband's health started deteriorating some years back.
Following that, Madam Loe said that she feels re-energised and better able to care for her husband in the evenings when he is home.
This article was first published on January 21, 2015.
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