Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the 2015 Model Caregiver Awards Ceremony, on 24 October 2015

Ms Janice Ang, Chairperson of AWWA

Partners from the Health and Social Sector

Caregivers and their family members

Ladies and Gentlemen


1          A very good afternoon to one and all. I am delighted to join you again for this year’s Model Caregiver Awards organised by AWWA. Let me first extend my heartfelt appreciation to all our award recipients. Although every award recipient is unique, one characteristic they have in common is the resilience and devotion to their loved ones’ well-being. Their caregiving journeys are without exception very heart-warming and inspiring.

Caregiving: A Collective Responsibility

 2         Caregiving will become increasingly important. Singapore’s healthcare needs are rising rapidly with our ageing population. By 2030, one in five Singapore residents will be aged 65 and above. Ageing will affect all of us or someone close to us, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we are better prepared for heavier caregiving responsibilities in future. More importantly, how we as a society, take on our responsibilities of looking after our loved ones will define us and speak volumes of our collective values as a society and a nation.

3          Today, we have heard extraordinary stories of Singaporeans who have persisted against all odds, made countless sacrifices and shown resolve and love to overcome great adversity to care for his or her loved ones.  We have young caregivers such as Isaac, Seraphina and Marziya who have risen to the challenge of caring for their loved ones, even as they juggle school work with caregiving duties. We have middle-aged parents such as Madam Kamsih and Madam Khatijah who are caring for children with special needs. Their persistence and encouragement have inspired their sons to achieve in sports far beyond anyone’s expectations. We have single mothers such as Ms Cindy Tan who left her job whilst working overseas to renew her relationship with her daughter when she was affected by a mental illness. Both of them have since overcome the odds and are now actively helping others at Caregivers Alliance Limited. We also have older caregivers from the Pioneer Generation. These include 88 year old Madam Leong whose devotion to her 77-year-old sister is commendable, and 68-year-old Madam Hajjah Rehana who has been caring for her spouse after his tragic accident. It is befitting that AWWA specially introduced the Pioneer Caregiver award this year to celebrate the achievements of two of our pioneers, amongst many others, who continue to care for their loved ones despite their advanced age.

4          The responsibility of caregiving is not an easy one to bear. Caregivers sacrifice their work, time and sometimes even their lives to ensure that their loved ones continue to receive the best care and highest quality of life possible. We can, and must do more to support our caregivers, so that they do not walk this journey alone. It is with this in mind that the Government has continued to develop new schemes, and enhance existing programmes and initiatives to support caregivers in their caregiving efforts.

Enhancing Caregiving Affordability

5          First, we have continued to enhance our schemes to help defray the costs of caregiving. For example, in April this year, we enhanced transport subsidies under the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund to offer more subsidies to bring seniors with mobility difficulties to eldercare centres or dialysis centres. Since the enhancement, the number of seniors who have benefited from transport subsidies has doubled from 2,300 as of end March 2015, to 4,600 as of end September 2015. We have also enhanced the Assistive Technology Fund this August to cover people with disabilities of all ages and for all uses, and raised the lifetime subsidy cap to $40,000 to help defray the costs of buying assistive technology and equipment.

6          In May this year, we lowered the Foreign Domestic Worker concessionary levy from $120 to $60 per month for families who require helpers to look after the frail elderly, young children or persons with disabilities. On top of this, the Foreign Domestic Worker Grant provides a monthly sum of $120 to families with foreign domestic workers caring for seniors and persons with moderate disabilities. For all caregivers alike, the Caregivers’ Training Grant provides an annual sum of $200 for caregivers to attend training courses to better equip themselves with the necessary skills and know-how in caring for their loved ones. We hope that these various forms of financial support will lighten their financial burden and help caregivers to continue to care for their loved ones for as long as they can.

Improving Care Navigation and Information Access

7          Second, we have worked to provide better referral and care navigation services to caregivers and their families. Caregivers are often unprepared when they first become caregivers and many do not know where to start. Even existing caregivers may find navigating today’s care landscape challenging. Last year, we announced the launch of Singapore Silver Line - a one-stop call centre to help the elderly and their caregivers in the community to navigate care services and schemes. Since the launch, we have received more than 59,000 calls, or an average of at least 4,000 calls per month. In the past one year, the Agency for Integrated Care or AIC has also expanded its community touch points called “AICareLinks”[1] beyond the first location at AIC’s office to restructured hospitals[2]. Having AICareLinks, which is a one-stop resource centre, sited at these hospitals provides convenience to caregivers who can drop in at these counters when they visit their loved ones. Caregivers can use AICareLinks to access information on care services, assistance schemes and grants and obtain advice on getting the right care at the right place, and on enabling seniors to age-in-place.

Strengthening respite care and care resources

8          Third, we are expanding our respite care programmes to allow caregivers to take a short break. We have put in place the Eldersit service to offer home respite for caregivers of persons with dementia. The eldersitter engages the person with dementia in simple activities and enables the caregiver to step out and take a break.  Today, caregivers also have access to respite at 10 eldercare centres across Singapore if they need a few hours off during the weekend. Those who need a slightly longer break of several days to a few weeks can tap on the Nursing Home Respite Care Programme which we have just mainstreamed after a two-year pilot. We saw good demand for the service during the pilot, and are now engaging nursing homes to grow the number of homes offering this programme beyond the current 17. Going forward, we will continue to expand respite care as well as strengthen community care services to support caregivers so that they can continue in their caregiving journey.

9          The stories shared by today’s award winners reaffirm that caring for our loved ones is an enriching and deeply meaningful experience. This is despite the emotional, physical and financial challenges they face. We are heartened to see more agencies with caregiver support and education programmes, such as AWWA, Caregivers Alliance, ADA, Tsao Foundation and MINDS.  The Ministry of Health will continue to partner these agencies to co-create meaningful programmes and devise good care and social support networks and platforms for our caregivers. 

Conclusion

10        In closing, I would like to congratulate all family and professional caregivers here on the significant contributions you have made in the lives of those benefiting from your care. I would also like to express my appreciation to AWWA for continuing to champion the cause of caregivers in Singapore, in organising the annual Model Caregiver Awards since 2007.

11        In parting, may I wish everyone a pleasant weekend, and may your journey of caregiving continue to be a fulfilling and meaningful one. 

12        Thank you.          

 

 

 

[1] Pronounced as “I – CARE – LINKS”

 

 

[2] The restructured hospitals at which AICareLinks are currently sited are CGH, NUH, KTPH and TTSH.

 

 

 

 

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