Meeting grey expectations

Can we age gracefully? The Health Ministry thinks so.

During a debate in Parliament earlier this month, it is announced that more money and attention would be spent on home-based care.

Home care - where doctors, nurses and physiotherapists tend to the elderly in their own homes - is expected to meet some of our silver group's expectations.

Professionals also help with areas such as rehabilitation and personal care to make daily life more comfortable for the elderly. The goal: Improve the quality of life for fiercely independent seniors like Madam Doreen Lim, 84. (See related report below).

Such services would also ease pressure on hospitals and other institutions.

But home-care operators say that current funding methods may have to be reviewed to help them reach out to those in need. For instance, the Government can narrow the gap between norm costs (which subsidies are calculated on) and actual healthcare costs, which tend to be more expensive.

Already, voluntary welfare organisations like Touch Home Care and Caregivers Support are dealing with an exponential increase in the number of elderly folks needing such care.

Its director, Mr Kavin Seow, said that the number of clients it served last year - 1,600 - is 20 per cent more than in 2012.

Its caregiver hotline now receives an average of 300 calls monthly, which is almost 40 per cent more since it started in April 2010.

It will expand into two heartland estates by the middle of next year and, said Mr Seow, more grassroots support and basing subsidies on a different framework will help the organisation "be more sustainable in the long term" and reach out to more frail elderly.

ON THE RISE

Come 2030, one in five of Singaporeans will be over 65 years old, which is almost double from the one in nine today.

While the Government will pay to get more on home care, ensuring affordability - for both the user and provider - remains challenging.

Said Mr Seow: "Low-income families often choose to do without home modification and home rehab, though they're aware of the risks which an unsafe home environment poses to the elderly."

And since "government funding alone is not sufficient", Touch has to source and pitch for private funding to cover some costs, he added.

kohht@sph.com.sg

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