TODAY Online - Domestic workers to get training, in move to shift care of elders to the home

Turning domestic helpers into “eldercarers”.

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An in-depth programme to train a new “corps” of domestic helpers in taking care of the aged at home is among the latest moves by the Government to shift healthcare for seniors from hospitals to the community.

Coining the term “eldercarer” for such domestic helpers, Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor said training under this pilot involves four days of classroom learning and on-the-job training. Employers who want to send their domestic helpers for this can do so through the Agency for Integrated Care.

Explaining the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) aim in anchoring good care for seniors at home, Dr Khor noted that while grants are now given to make it more affordable for caregivers of frail seniors to hire foreign domestic helpers, some still find it difficult to find helpers who are proficient in eldercare.

Other announcements to boost aged care at home — part of a new Home and Community Care Masterplan unveiled during the MOH’s Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (April 13) — include appointing suitable operators to provide “three-in-one” care services, integrating nursing homes, eldercare centres and home care.

A Request for Proposal for the first bundle under this new Integrated Operator Scheme pilot will be called later this year, in the south of Singapore.

Dr Khor said each of these tenders could involve possibly up to 500 nursing-home beds, 240 day-care places and 150 home-care places. By integrating varied aged-care services under individual operators, care will be more patient-centric, while the large tenders can help grow bigger players with the economies of scale to provide better and more affordable care, she said. This model will also provide for smoother transitions from acute sectors to community hospitals, and then to long-term care, she added.

Small tenders with individual facilities and services will still be called for providers who specialise in a particular care setting, said Dr Khor.

The MOH has also worked with three eldercare providers — Peacehaven, Jamiyah Home and Tsao Foundation — to pilot 300 places that bundle a range of home- and centre-based care services — from rehab and nursing care to housekeeping services and meal delivery — to serve seniors more “holistically”. Up to 80 per cent of the fees for each customised package, which range from S$1,100 to S$2,200 per month, can be subsidised by the Government.

Dr Khor also said it aims to grow its community-befriending programme — where seniors are paired with befrienders in the neighbourhood who will check on them and help with their needs — to 50 communities by 2020. This means that the programme, launched a year ago, will reach out to more than 1,000 befrienders and some 3,000 elderly befriendees.

At least 10 Active Ageing Hubs will also be built within future HDB developments by 2020. These one-stop centres will offer active-ageing programmes for healthy seniors, and day-care and rehab services for those who are frail.

The ministry also aims to improve the system of transportation to care services. In a pilot last year, the AIC worked with ComfortDelgro to engage taxi drivers to send seniors from their homes to the care centres. The programme has reached out to more than 130 seniors, and the ministry hopes to expand it to an additional 200 seniors this year.

In response to calls from the House to expand ElderShield coverage across more segments of the elderly population and for a longer period, Minister of State (Health) Chee Hong Tat said these suggestions will be studied as part of the ongoing ElderShield review.

However, he noted the need to balance enhancements with cost increases to ensure the scheme remains affordable. “Increasing the payouts and coverage ... will require higher premiums for the scheme to remain viable,” he said.

Source: TODAY Online

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