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“Does a caregiver have to deplete everything before getting help?”

This letter appears in The New Paper today, Wednesday 8th December 2010, page 18 as "Why are nursing homes' rates so much higher?"

For years, I have been trying to secure some home-help services as the strain of caring for my wife, who has mental and physical health problems for more than three decades, is taking a heavy toll on me.

Many caregivers who are caring for their marginalised loved ones suffer burnout. Yet, securing support for us is a daunting task.

Recently, through the Centre for Enabled Living, a senior staff from a nursing home was asked to visit us to help with some of our needs, including meal delivery, transportation for my wife's medical appointments and cleaning services.

After going through the mandatory means testing, I was told I would have to pay the following charges:

  • $70 to ferry my wife to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and back for each of her medical appointments.
  • $70 for cleaners to clean up my three-room HDB flat for 40 minutes.

A two-way trip from our home to TTSH by taxi usually costs less than $20 and the going rate for part-time cleaning services is only $10 to $15 an hour.

So, how do the nursing homes' rates help?

The nursing home staff seemed far from sympathetic, saying that the home depended on donations to run its services, and the guidelines are drawn up by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

I don't have a fulltime job.

Just because I still have some CPF savings, does a faithful and dedicated caregiver like myself have to deplete everything before getting help?

It is little wonder that many caregivers give up on walking the whole journey with their stricken ones because there is so little compassion for our marginalised citizens.

Raymond Anthony Fernando