June 20, 2011

SINGAPORE: Sometimes, loving grandma means ...

SINGAPORE / TODAY / Voices / June 20, 2011

Putting her in the nursing home where she can get skilled care

By Michelle Jean Yeang

There has always been a negative stigma surrounding putting our elderly in nursing homes. I would like to try to dispel some of this disdain, the view that we "chuck" these old folks into homes because we couldn't care less.

We do this because we actually do care - a great deal.

My family has placed my grandmother in a nursing home simply because it is the most loving thing to do. Having had three falls and two strokes, my grandmother needs constant assistance. To ensure that she receives the right care and attention, we decided to place her in a nursing home where she would be in the hands of professionals trained in elderly care.

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This meant putting her in one of the better homes that guarantees a comfortable environment and a high level of care and attention. This also means it comes at a greater cost to my family.

Many of my grandmother's children have since retired, so forking out thousands of dollars on nursing home fees monthly means making certain sacrifices in their lives - spending less on themselves and their family so as to put aside money for their mother.

We would love to be able to have our grandmother live with us at home. But having tried a variety of arrangements, we had to finally admit that as much as we wanted to help, we did not have the expertise to provide her with the best care.

She only ended up feeling depressed, born of her frustration with her inability to do the things she used to be able to do at home. Conversely, her mood has improved greatly since she began living in the nursing home, and many of the home's staff have befriended and adore her.

Despite the nursing home being quite far from where we all stay, the entire family across three generations ensures that at least one person visits and spends time with her every single day.

If any family member is unable to make it, we will make sure someone else goes instead, so that not a day passes that she feels she is forgotten.

However, I do feel that a few things could be done to help ease this situation.

One, build more nursing homes in heartland estates so that family is never too far away and visits can be more frequent.

Two, provide government subsidies for the elderly who require long-term care, as it is financially taxing for the next generation, which is no longer earning an income, to have to dig into their savings to pay the bills.

Three, help families to have their elderly parents live at home with them and yet receive the right care. Make home nursing options more affordable. Provide government-subsidied training workshops to equip family members with the right skills to take care of the elderly. Increase the number of domestic workers trained in elderly care - higher wages may be required to attract such trained help, but it would definitely be worth it.

There are other families like mine who just want to do what is in the best interest of their elderly members. In many cases, keeping them at home in a corner without the right care and ignoring them to do our own things every day, is in fact doing more harm to them than placing them in the right nursing home.

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