Weekend care service gives caregivers a break

Madam Mary Tay (in shorts), 64, dancing with centre manager Julie Ong (left) at the activity main hall of the new Silver Circle Senior Care Centre. It is one of seven centres offering the Weekend Respite Care scheme.

Cleaner Tay Kwee Khee used to worry about leaving her disabled mother at home alone when she went out - but a new weekend care scheme has changed her life.

The programme, run by the Agency for Integrated Care, aims to provide caregivers of elderly people a chance to have a welcome break.

There are seven facilities across the island - including the Silver Circle Senior Care Centre, which officially opened at Serangoon Central yesterday - that offer the service on weekends.

It is a simple concept but it is proving effective in giving people like Madam Tay some much-needed help. "My mother cannot eat or bathe by herself. I have to do these things for her," she said.

The 52-year-old moved in with her mum, Madam Low Lee Kho, in Serangoon Central three years ago after she suffered a stroke that left her partially blind. That made shopping or going to work a real concern for Madam Tay until the Weekend Respite Care scheme started. "Now I don't have to worry that no one can take care of my mother when I have to work on Saturdays," she added.

Some 180 places are available in total every weekend. About 40 people turn up on average.

Fees range from $36 to $68 for a weekend session but families with a lower household income are eligible for funding of up to 80 per cent. Meals are also provided.

The seven centres offering the service are Silver Circle, Society for the Physically Disabled in Toa Payoh, Sasco Day Activity Centre for the Elderly in Telok Blangah, Sasco Hong Kah North Day Care Centre in Bukit Batok, St Luke's Eldercare in Tampines, Peacehaven in Changi and Swami Home at Sembawang. But not all offer the service on Sundays.

By the end of next year, at least three more centres will join the programme. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was at the official opening of the Silver Circle Senior Care Centre, said: "With this service, we hope that caregivers can take a break now and then to recharge... By taking care of themselves, caregivers can also take better care of their seniors."

This article was first published on July 15, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.