AFTER having a leg amputated, a 54-year-old man was homebound for many years and had used nearly all his savings paying medical bills. He and his family turned to NTUC Eldercare for help, and the organisation submitted more than 20 applications to charities and welfare schemes for financial aid and food. It also got him a wheelchair through the Senior’s Mobility Fund, a $10 million kitty administered by the Agency for Integrated Care. But he then had to get an additional private donation for an essential anti-tipping device on his wheelchair, to protect himself from tilting backwards.
This case study was presented by NTUC Eldercare general manager Lim Sia Hoe yesterday, to illustrate the need for a more integrated system to catch the needy elderly who fall through the cracks. She was speaking at a meeting for industry stakeholders hosted by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing. Having to go through so many channels is a common problem, the representatives of organisations that work with elderly people here said.
Mr Walter Lee, Bethany Methodist Welfare Home director, said: “It’s a daily issue for us when we face patients who are returning to a home not equipped to deal with their condition. Where do we find donors for wheelchairs, or hospital beds even?” Another participant, Ms Goh Swee Eng, said a further challenge for the elderly care sector is finding the right people to care for the elderly. “The medical and social parts of eldercare cannot be separate,” said Ms Goh, Touch Home Care’s senior executive in charge of home medical and home nursing services. “You cannot help a senior by merely providing him with medicine or therapy, for example, and neglecting his emotional well-being.”
At the dialogue session, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said more seniors activity centres will be built as they will have to serve 30,000 more elderly people in Singapore by 2020. Thye Hua Kuan Moral Society chairman Lee Kim Siang said the three seniors activity centres his organisation runs are working to keep up with this target by boosting manpower and training. “We must be prepared to take in more people and prepare for a bigger role to play,” he said. “This will ensure that people who need help can age in place, but as they grow weaker, our staff must be equipped to deal with their needs.”
For retired cook Chan Hor Chan, 65, getting a rollator – a walking frame with wheels – last year was easy only because she had help from grassroots leaders in her Tanglin-Cairnhill ward. She applied for the walking aid through the Senior’s Mobility Fund. “I wasn’t sure about what funds or schemes could help me, but I had fallen twice before and my legs are weaker so I might fall again without this frame,” she said in Mandarin. “It would help old people like me a lot if these welfare schemes are easier to apply for, so we can get help when we need it.”