Caring for our elderlies is expensive business

Some background of my father:

He has been a stroke victim since 1994. Ever since 2012, he has been unable to even transfer himself from bed to wheelchair. In 2013, he needed permanent use of a catheter (a tube inserted into your body to drain urine). In 2014 he almost died from toxic shock owed to an enlarged prostrate.

He was divorced for as long as I have had a memory. His brother and sisters are all aging and suffering from serious diseases of their own. I was raised by my aunts from since I was four years old.

The only option I have now are these:

  • Put him in a nursing home for $3,000 a month or,
  • Hire a maid at $600 a month and pay a subsidised levy of $60 (soon to become $260 as you will read later on…)

All these are exclusive of the cost of doctors appointments and catheter changes which can come up to $200-$300 a month.

I’ll shorten the story and tell you what happened these last few days:

  • My father has been in and out of the hospital wards for the past few days. It started with a hiccup that continued day and night for a week and then salmonella infection which almost led to his death.
  • MOM wants to now charge me the full levy of $260. Why? Because I registered my father’s address with my aunts. Why did I do that? Because he is about to enter a nursing home and the apartment we’re staying at is only temporary. Now, the Agency for Integrated Care doesn’t like that: they told me blankly I’ll have to pay $260 (each month). “Sorry sir, the system is like this, we cannot do anything;
  • He has to go to a nursing home, even though it is expensive. I thought very deeply about it:
    • a.) He spends 70% of his time on the bed without physical or mental activity, if this goes on I’m afraid he’ll get dementia;
    • b.) He weighs about 70kg and the maid alone has difficulty transferring him, he is also observed to find it challenging controlling his stools;
    • c.) The maid is left with him alone 100% of the time, friction will and had happened;
    • d.) Even with a helper, she has to rest, go on holidays and take weekends off also. This has at many times clashed with my own work and appointments.
  • Our nursing homes are at full capacity. It is neither simple, nor affordable to enrol your elderlies in one. The only notice I have today is that I’ll have to pay $1400 a month for this (still exclusive of catheters, medicine and doctor’s fee). No news about availability yet.

Seriously – how many Singaporeans can afford this kind of money?

The way that Means Testing has been designed, you won’t get help if you so much as have a job and/or own an apartment.

The worst part about all this? Dealing with the civil servants. Each one of them speaks like they want you to hang-up the phone as soon as they can. Each one of them don’t seem to be listening nor even empathising. Why do they behave like this? The only reason I can think of is that they have KPIs to meet. Finish the phone call in X minutes and serve Y number of customers.

And then each one of them gives you remarks like:

  • “You have an income, you can pay for this still”
  • “It is your responsibility – you need to try”
  • “You have a house, why don’t you sell it for funding?”

One of the more incredible things they want me to do, was to acquire a signature from an aunt who has degenerative arthritis (her fingers are fused together), is blind and an amputee. I was very upset at this request. The signature would have been legally invalid to start with…but all these agencies can say is “just try”. Which part of “fingers fused together” do these fuck-heads not understand? I can get neither a thumbprint nor a signature.

The entire process is cold, heartless, void of listening, void of compassion. I swear Siri has more empathy than these civil servants.

They will certainly help you if you “have expanded all your means”. Oh ok, sure – we’ll finish spending all of our money and when there’s nothing left, the only alternative is suicide isn’t it? I’m not dramatising it. Flip the newspapers. It is real, it is the route some unfortunate few have chosen to take.

Other countries have pension funds, affordable nursing homes, retirement villages and they’re all designed in such a way that the elderly can enrol themselves in it. Dignity is preserved and there is no need to “ask an MP for help” like you’re some destitute crying out for a few crumbs. And why should we go to an MP? Is it even useful? If a letter from the MP solves everything, why doesn’t he just run the place himself? No need for the organisation in the first place.

And us? We’re forced to hire maids when half the country is not ready to be an employer: that’s the reason why you see so much friction and abuse between employers and their helpers.

How does it feel? It is a mind-fuck, that’s the best I can describe it. You owe it to your parents to do the best for them (and in my case, my aunts also) but you just cannot afford it. You struggle between building a life for yourself and also to have to build it for them, because you owe it to them.

I have faith in this government. I understand the challenges they face in running a bureaucracy. There are changes this country needs to undertake as a whole if we are to help more segments of our society (no, I’m not talking about elections). Perhaps some of the more senior civil servants don’t see the problems/issues and difficulties related to caring for family members.

I’m tired.

It has been like this since 1994 and I am exhausted.

If you are facing a similar circumstance, write to me at [email protected] – these voices need to surface.



Categories: Slice of My Life

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