Mar 14, 2014

    Robust home care can plug gap

    IN ASIAN societies, filial piety is highly valued. But in modern Singapore, people sometimes find it difficult to carry out their duty as children or grandchildren.

    For them, the announcement that the Ministry of Health will give greater priority to developing home-based care this year is welcome news.

    What's more, the services come with government funding and subsidy.

    No senior wants to end his or her days in an institution, as just another patient in a row of beds. But many do, because their families, while willing, are not able to provide the care they need at home.

    A robust home-care service can help plug this glaring gap.

    At the same time, affordable and accessible home care may help to solve some of Singapore's health-care woes.

    It could free up hospital beds if patients are more willing to go home, with the promise that they will receive 12 hours of care at home for 12 out of the first 14 days of their being discharged.

    Such help would allay fears that the patient may take a turn for the worse after going home.

    It would also give carers time to gain confidence in caring for the patient.

    The home rehabilitation service, where a therapist or therapy aide provides rehabilitative care - for up to four months - for patients who have difficulty going to a centre for treatment, is also a laudable move.

    Again, it means that the person can live at home, instead of in a nursing home or community hospital, in order to receive the care.

    For those with a long-term illness requiring either medical or personal care, having such care delivered at home would be a great relief for the family.

    But while these at-home services will be warmly welcomed by most people, they are not easy to implement.

    A doctor, nurse or therapist can attend to many more patients at a centre than if he were to make house visits.

    So for the same number of patients, many more health-care professionals will be needed - a problem that cannot be overstated amid the continuing struggle to find enough health-care manpower.

    On the other hand, the move could be a new option in providing part-time work for retired health-care professionals who may be willing to care for someone in their neighbourhood.

    As with almost everything, the devil is in the details. Much thought and planning will have to go into it if home care is to take off on a large scale.

    And, of course, there will still be patients who require institutionalised care. Hence the need to keep building up capacity.