Caregiving is a community effort. And Healthier SG is here to help.

It is not just caregivers and the Government that can support people with dementia. Everyone else from the community can pitch in, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam at this previous Friday’s (Sep 23) opening of the Enabling Festival.

“The understanding, empathy and emotional support we give to persons living with dementia and their families are crucial and a great source of comfort to caregivers,” said Ms Rahayu.

“Employers, corporations, partners and donors play a part too, in creating this atmosphere for us to all be able to provide the support, love and patience to walk this journey together,”

Caregivers can also practice self-care and support each other, she said, commending a particular two — Danny and Daniel — who attended care skills training courses as well as providing peer-to-peer support for other family caregivers.

“This is the beauty of a community in Singapore — people who experience challenges themselves, share and provide support to others, so that there is a whole society behind us carrying the load and making it lighter,” added Ms Rahayu.

Such support from everyone is needed.

Three in four caregivers feel the need to temporarily separate from the person they care for.

Over 72 per cent feel tired and exhausted from caregiving.

This is according to a 2020 survey of caregivers (including caregivers of persons with dementia), conducted by the Singapore Management University with the support of Caregiver Alliance Limited, Enable Asia and the Singapore Association for Mental Health.

Government services for dementia caregivers

This extra help will complement Government efforts to aid caregivers.

These efforts include caregiver community outreach teams stablished by the Ministry of Health (MOH), Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and community partners. These teams promote self-care through health and wellness activities, stress management, and link caregivers with peer support groups and counselling services where needed.

Dementia-Friendly Communities (DFC), which raise awareness of dementia and foster community involvement, are another caregiver aid effort. These DFCs are found in (among others) Yishun, Hong Kah North, MacPherson, Queenstown, Bedok, Fengshan, Bukit Batok East and Woodlands.

Night Respite, too, is a Government initiative supporting caregivers of seniors with dementia showing “sundowning behaviour” — behavioural and sleep issues at night. Like its name shows, Night Respite helps caregivers have some time off from their duties.

“I hope that these are some of the services that can be tapped on by caregivers, for them to take a break and recharge,” said Ms Rahayu.

A Healthier SG that cares

These caregiving efforts intersect with the Government’s new Healthier SG multi-year strategy. The Ministry of Health (MOH) submitted the White Paper on Sep 21 and it will be debated in the October Parliament sitting.

Healthier SG transforms how the Government delivers healthcare. It emphasises proactively preventing people from falling ill.

Under it, intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) partners will co-create with family doctors and healthcare clusters programmes that serve Singapore’s seniors. 

Caregivers will have an easier time connecting to AIC activities through Healthier SG. Singapore’s 119 and counting Eldercare Centres (ECs), including the seven Sparkle Care ones are also being enhanced for more services including monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure.

Healthier SG aims to expand this EC network to 220 by 2025. MOH estimates that by then, about eight in ten seniors will have an EC in the vicinity of their homes.

ECs will also be spaces for health initiatives like end-of-life planning, basic health screening for early detection of risk of dementia or loss of muscle mass, and community health events. 

These services can be led by community nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists. This lets Healthier SG anchor care in the community

In total, this strategic shift and extra services will help prevent caregiver burnout.

“I would also like to give a shout-out to our caregivers here today, who are passionate advocates and have taken the lead to drive dementia awareness and empowering family caregivers at this annual event,” said Secretary Rahayu of the three-week-long Enabling Festival (Sep 23 – Oct 20), which similarly focuses on the need to ‘stay in touch’.

“It takes a whole-of-community approach and many helping hands to support persons living with dementia and their family caregivers in the community,” she explained.

Cover photo credit: St Luke’s ElderCare Facebook