More support for seniors, with services consolidated under MOH
They had been married for around 45 years when his wife became ill and needed to rely on a caregiver.
Mr Chandra Mogan G. R., 73, has been the main caregiver to his wheelchair-bound wife since 2014, and is now helped by a domestic worker.
Things used to be much harder for him.
Mr Chandra was referred to the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) team last March for caregiver stress when his domestic worker at the time left.
The CNS brings together community stakeholders - such as voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), regional health systems and government agencies - to support and engage seniors.
The programme was piloted at several sites in 2016 and will be expanded nationwide by 2020, announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
"Social and healthcare needs are closely inter-related and both have an impact on the well-being of our seniors," said Mr Heng, noting it is important for such services to be "planned and delivered holistically".
Initially, without support to care for his wife, Mr Chandra was exhausted and unable to go to work as a tour guide.
He said: "I needed to work, and with no one at home to take care of her, I could not go."
In April last year, Mr Chandra's wife was admitted to hospital for low blood sugar.
Upon her discharge, Mr Chandra was forced to consider putting her in a nursing home, as he felt anxious about providing her with the appropriate care.
He said: "I really did not want to. I remember when we first mentioned it, even though she could not really speak, she shook her head and there were tears in her eyes."
After speaking to the CNS team, Mr Chandra realised there were other options.
The programme, which integrates social and healthcare services, among others, arranged for Mr Chandra's new domestic helper to be trained by nurses in how to look after the health and well-being of his wife, allowing her to stay at home.
By linking them up with well-integrated social and healthcare support services, CNS enables seniors like Mr Chandra and his wife to age at home.
To meet the needs of an ageing population, one of the main challenges pointed out in yesterday's Budget speech, several other initiatives for seniors were announced.
From April, the Ministry of Social and Family Development will transfer its social aged care functions under the Senior Cluster Network and other programmes to the Ministry of Health (MOH), to ensure further integration of health and social care.
The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will be the designated central implementation agency to coordinate such services. The Pioneer Generation Office will also be merged with AIC, and will be renamed the Silver Generation Office to reach out to all Singaporeans aged 65 and above.
It will explain current government policies and identify seniors who might be in need.
There will also be top-ups to funds that support seniors in their ageing.
The Community Silver Trust, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to eligible VWOs, will see a $300 million top-up.
The Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund, which provides subsidies for assistive devices and consumables for seniors, will see a $100 million top-up.
The Government will spend a further $150 million on transport to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres, over the next five years.
The Budget also provides for general healthcare needs.
Mr Heng said a key area of expenditure growth was healthcare, including building six more general and community hospitals, and more polyclinics, nursing homes and eldercare centres over the next five years.