More S'poreans urged to learn caregiver skills

MORE than 20,000 people have made use of the Caregivers Training Grant since it was set up eight years ago to help them take care of loved ones.

But the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which manages the grant, hopes to attract more - including those who have no need of caregiving skills yet. As its social care division chief Kelvin Lim says, it pays to be prepared.

"At some point, elderly parents will need a caregiver. Having to pick up these skills when you have a lot of other things to worry about can be very tiring," he said. "The main benefit is the sense of assurance and reduced stress when an incident does occur."

Those who apply for the grant get a $200 subsidy every year to take up a training course. Conducted by groups such as the Alzheimer's Disease Association, these courses include topics such as basic feeding and bathing, fall prevention and dealing with dementia patients.

Just seven course providers were listed when the grant was launched; now there are about 50. "We think this will continue to grow because the number of caregivers will rise with the ageing population," Mr Lim said.

One repeat customer is 53-year-old James Teo, who started attending dementia care courses in 2009 to help him better understand his elderly mother. "She kept repeating the same things, and it was very difficult to communicate with her."

More than 10 courses later, Mr Teo is now a part-time elder-sitter. "I tell the caregivers that I understand what they're going through," he said. "You can read books about dementia, but that is theory. In practice, it's different."

At the Econ Careskill Training Centre in Sims Avenue, at least one session is held a week. Most clients send their maids there to learn skills such as how to move the elderly from beds to wheelchairs.

Home-based training is also becoming popular, said senior nurse educator Elizabeth Chan.

Mr Lim said even those who think they are managing well could benefit from a session, as they may pick up more effective care techniques.