Jose Raymond of the Singapore People’s Party took to Facebook to suggest ways for the government to provide better support to Singaporeans in taking care of their elders.
Mr Raymond talked about his own experience of caring for his father during the last few months of his life which he described as ‘the best decision’ he’s made in his adult life, fulfilling the promise he made to his father as a child that he would look after his father until the day he died.
Mr Raymond did also acknowledge that he was lucky to be in a position where he could be around to care for his father – he was a business owner and in the midst of completing his masters programme – compared to his siblings who were not self-employed like he was.
The government’s Caregivers Support Action Plan under the Ministry of Health is, says Mr Raymond, a ‘baby step in the right direction’ but still insufficient as it does not address the fundamental fears that ordinary people face when tasked with the reality of caring for their elderly parents or siblings.
Mr Raymond said, “Bottom line; Many individuals wish to look after their elderly parents, especially in their final days. But what stops them from doing so is mainly fear.”
He highlighted that many fear they will be unable to find a job if they take time off their current careers to be personal caregivers for their ageing parents. And will bills to pay and mortgages to pay off, there is a real fear – something Mr Raymond said many middle-aged Singaporeans have shared with him.
He also highlighted that the high cost of living in Singapore also leaves many children with little choice but to employ a caregiver and even consider a nursing home.
Mr Raymond offered a number of possible measures for governments and businesses to address the ‘root of the issue’ and foster a culture of allowing Singaporeans to care for their elderly when the times comes. He suggested increasing the number of Eldercare Leave of Absence from Work for people with elderly parents or siblings from just 2-3 days a year at present. He also suggested the government take lead in providing more flexi-hours for Parental Care with hopes that the private sector will follow suit.
Mr Raymond also proposed more tax breaks for Singaporean families who decide to care for their elderly in their final days as well as tax breaks for companies that encourage or assist its staff to go on unpaid Caregiving Leave of Absence.
Mr Raymond said, “While the Government has encouraged companies to adopt pro-family policies, the harsh ground realities is that it is insufficient in driving the right national culture towards eldercare and ageing.”
He added that a person’s employment status shouldn’t be a hurdle and that there’s still a lot of work to be done.