Disabled pioneers get free screenings at home

A TRIP to the clinic is too difficult for 82-year-old Abu Bakar Tik, who lost the use of his legs after being hospitalised for pneumonia two years ago.

He now spends his day in a reclining chair at his three-room flat in Bukit Batok East, and has to be helped to the toilet for a shower by his wife and grandson.

"I struggle to move him, even when my grandson is here," said his wife Jamila Abdul Kadir, 71, in Malay. "Don't even ask about going out of the house."

But yesterday, Mr Abu Bakar got a visit by a physiotherapist at his home to assess whether he qualifies for the Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme (PioneerDAS).

The house visit was part of Jurong GRC MP Halimah Yacob's push to help as many pioneers as possible benefit from the scheme.

In the first effort of its kind, residents in her Bukit Batok East ward can sign up for free screenings to determine if they are eligible for PioneerDAS.

Under the scheme, those who cannot do at least three activities on their own, such as bathing, dressing and eating, will receive $1,200 a year as part of the Pioneer Generation Package.

But to qualify, they need to be certified by assessors like doctors or physiotherapists. Such screenings cost about $35 at polyclinics and $45 at private clinics.

Ms Zainab Syed Abdul Rahman, 61, who uses a cane, accompanied her 101-year-old aunt Meriyam Syed Salim, who uses a wheelchair, for the free screening.

"I'm retired, so even little things like this help with our monthly expenses," she said.

A doctor, occupational therapist and physiotherapist from JurongHealth conducted the screening yesterday. They saw about 18 residents at Bukit Batok East Community Club in the afternoon, and visited another 12 at home.

About 100 residents have already signed up for screenings. A second session will be held in October. Madam Halimah, who is the Speaker of Parliament, attended the first screening at her ward yesterday and hopes to see similar efforts at other wards.

Commenting on recent appeals by seniors who missed out on qualifying for the Pioneer Generation Package, she said those whose appeals fail should not despair as there are other avenues for help.

The package's benefits include subsidies for outpatient care and annual Medisave top-ups.

"Our society and health-care system are compassionate enough to assess them on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Singaporeans must be 65 or older this year and must have become a citizen before 1987 to be recognised as pioneers.


This article was first published on August 30, 2014.
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