Helping more seniors 'age in place' at home

SINGAPORE - More seniors will get an opportunity to be tended to in their own homes rather than in an institution, after the Ministry of Health announced plans to increase capacity and roll out more subsidies for home care.

The move is to allow seniors to "age in place gracefully" in the comfort of their own homes.

It would also give hospitals more breathing space in the tight hospital bed situation.

The Government is committing funds to help home care providers expand and the target is to allow 10,000 people to be on home medical and nursing care by 2020, and 7,500 on home personal care, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said.

The corresponding numbers of people who can get such help currently are 5,400 and 1,100.

Home health care refers to visits by medical professionals like doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, while home personal care typically refers to help with daily activities like bathing.

The need for more home care services in the light of the ageing population was raised in Parliament by several MPs, including Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) and Workers' Party secretary- general Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC).

In her reply, Dr Khor also said seniors who cannot access rehabilitation services will be able to get up to four months of therapy at home from next month.

Those undergoing home care can also get their homes assessed for potential hazards, to help them transition safely from their hospital stay.

Subsidies for both the rehabilitation and home assessment services will be based on means-testing, and can be as much as $97 per visit.

The ministry is also looking at funding home care providers on a per-client, rather than per-visit basis.

Currently, funding is provided based on the number of care hours or home visits needed.

The change means the Government will provide a fixed amount of funding per month for each senior under a provider's care.

The new funding model is likely to be implemented in the third quarter of this year.

"It gives service providers more certainty of longer-term financial support for our clients," said Mr Kavin Seow, director of home care and caregiver services at Touch Community Services, welcoming the move.

Home care providers will also have to come up with more comprehensive care offerings, so clients can get their medical and personal care needs - like bathing - tended to all at one go.

"Today, some seniors may find that home care services are delivered in a fragmented manner with lack of coordination between separate health and personal care providers," Dr Khor said.

"This creates barriers to home care and is not ideal as an individual's health and personal care needs are closely intertwined."

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