There is strong consensus among Singaporeans that severe disability can happen at any time and to anyone (95 per cent), and yet 50 per cent believe they will continue to stay healthy and are unlikely to need long-term care.
This sentiment was higher among younger Singaporeans aged between 20-29 (69 per cent) and 30-39 (55 per cent), and less so for those above 40 (42 per cent).
With the recent launch of CareShield Life, the mandatory national insurance scheme, insurance giant Aviva commissioned YouGov to survey over 2,000 Singaporeans to understand their perceptions and attitudes towards severe disability and long-term care, as well as how they plan to finance their long-term care needs.
Severe disability is defined by the inability to perform three or more activities of daily living (ADL), which are basic self-care tasks such as washing, feeding, toileting, dressing, transferring, and walking. It is expected that disabilities related to performing ADLs will increase from 9 per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent in 2050.
In the event one does become severely disabled, 90 per cent of respondents are worried about how they might finance their long-term care needs. In fact, across all age groups the cost of long-term care (83 per cent) emerged as the top concern, followed by the concern they may become a burden to their loved ones (80 per cent) and a loss of independence (75 per cent).
This financial burden of long-term care is exacerbated by a lack of confidence in their or their families’ ability to pay for the necessary healthcare (69 per cent) and to continue to afford daily expenses (64 per cent) if they were to become disabled.
This is slightly higher for those in their 30s, as this age group are not confident about their ability to pay for healthcare (70 per cent) and daily expenses (66 per cent).
This apprehension is valid, considering the actual costs of long-term care. According to Aviva’s 2018 Long-term Care Study, the average monthly cost amounts to S$2,324, which includes aids to help in daily living, everyday living expenses, care-giver expenses, medication and therapy and miscellaneous expenses. This amount is likely to increase further with inflation.
Most Singaporeans were aware the costs might be high, with 58 per cent estimating more than S$2,000 a month but close to one-third (27 per cent) think they will require less than $2,000 a month while 15 per cent are simply unsure.
When it comes to financing long-term care needs, 68 per cent of Singaporeans feel that the individual is responsible, and 83 per cent of these respondents intend to finance their long-term care needs through MediSave.
Singaporeans aged 30 and above can withdraw up to S$200 per month to supplement their long-term care needs from their MediSave Care account 2. They can also choose to use their MediSave, up to S$600 a year, to pay for CareShield Life Supplements to obtain higher coverage, and 86 per cent say they are likely to do so.
“Our ageing population is impacting how Singaporeans save, invest and spend, especially with regards to their health. Despite our family-oriented culture, individuals are now leaning more towards taking care of themselves instead of depending on their children to support them in the future,” said Daniel Lum, Director of Product & Marketing at Aviva Singapore.
“While younger Singaporeans may not see the urgency in thinking about this yet, closing this protection gap can only be achieved by planning early. Living longer should not feel like a burden, and support can be planned for in advance. Taking control of your own health and making decisions for long-term care needs while you are young will help ensure everyone’s needs are taken care of,” he added.
Interestingly, there are generational differences in the preference for long-term care providers. Younger Singaporeans show a keenness to stay at home, with 34 per cent of those aged 30-39 preferring to hire a qualified nurse to come to their home every day, whereas only 20 per cent of those aged above 40 chose the same.
On the other hand, 32 per cent aged above 40 preferred to stay at a nursing home to receive care, but this was only opted by 22 per cent of respondents aged 30-39.