December 5, 2011

SINGAPORE: Rise in Demand for 'Eldersitters' As Festive Season Approaches

JAKARTA, Indonesia / Jakarta Globe / International / December 5, 2011

Janice Tai - Straits Times Indonesia

SINGAPORE. Services providing companionship for the elderly in their homes are doing well, with the festive season round the corner.

Home-care providers say the number of requests for "eldersitting" - the equivalent of babysitting for older charges - is up 20 to 30 percent for the Christmas and Chinese New Year period.

They say more people are using such services because it is the time of year seniors take a break from nursing homes and community hospitals and go home to their families.

Family members and caregivers at home need help looking after these senior citizens, with everyone busy with festive preparations or taking short breaks.

Lim Sia Hoe, general manager of NTUC Eldercare, said many eldersitting requests are ad hoc ones - say, for just a day - so that at-home caregivers can nip out for errands or prepare for the festivities.

Unlike other home-care service providers which focus on medical and nursing services, NTUC Eldercare's team of 50 officers go to the homes of these elderly people to provide companionship, or to play games and provide exercise for their clients.

They will also run errands, do personal grooming and prepare meals.

NTUC Eldercare and Comfort Keepers, another private home-care provider, hire only local caregivers, because their elderly clients feel more comfortable interacting with them.

Often, these hired caregivers can speak dialects and the local languages.

These two home-care providers, which are the bigger players in the business in Singapore, prefer to hire older people like those between 35 and 55 as they can empathise better with their elderly charges.

About five other smaller players in the market, such as Bendemeer Medical Nursing Services and WeCare4u Family Services, also provide eldersitting services.

The service costs about $20 an hour. Most clients ask for between 20 and 40 hours of care a week.

Comfort Keepers also provides a 24-hour live-in care service.

Home-care providers say they expect demand for eldersitting to rise in the coming years.

Comfort Keepers, an American franchise with 550 offices globally offering in-home care for senior citizens, started out in Singapore five years ago with only five caregivers and two administrative staff.

Today, it has 120 caregivers and has served 700 clients over the years. Business has tripled in the last four years.

Similarly, NTUC Eldercare's four-year-old Care @ home service has quadrupled its number of clients over the years, and now serves about 200 elderly clients a year.

Care providers attribute the rise in demand for their services to an aging population and the prevalence of nuclear families, where the adults work and do not have as much time to provide custodial care and companionship for the aged members of their family.

Eldersitting services also meet the needs of senior citizens who are not mobile enough to use day-care services outside the home, but yet do not need full-fledged institutional care.

Ng Ling Ching, managing director of Comfort Keepers, said: "In-home care is attractive as it is convenient. In some cases, it may be cheaper than other options, especially when the elderly person is healthy and does not require institutional care."

Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia.

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