Monday, May 20, 2013

Letter to The Straits Times: Offer more respite options for caregivers

My letter on the above matter was published in The Straits Times on Monday 20th May 2013.

It is encouraging that the Health Ministry’s Agency for Integrated Care has recognised the need for caregivers to get some respite (“New scheme offers relief for caregivers”; last Thursday).

Caregiving is often a 24-hour job. A large proportion of caregivers give a lot of themselves because they view caring for their loved ones as their exclusive responsibility.  Many also lose key social support when they give up their jobs to care for their loved ones, and the price they pay is often very high – financially, emotionally and physically.

Although allowing patients to take short stays in nursing homes will give some relief to caregivers, there will be some who will feel uncomfortable with this arrangement, as they might be worried that their loved ones will feel abandoned.  This is especially so in the case of patients grappling with psychological issues, where emotional support from dedicated family caregivers plays a big part in maintaining their stability.

We need to offer more options to caregivers who are on a long and arduous journey.

The Government could build some respite centres in a few districts, where both patients and caregivers can relax in a conducive environment.

For instance, the Church of St Ignatius in Kings Road has a beautiful garden where retreats are held for parishioners.  It is a perfect sanctuary for anyone who needs peace of mind. The Government could study this church to see how similar sanctuaries could be built for caregivers who need a home away from home.

In America, the non-profit organisation Family Caregiver Alliance offers a patient support programme – called Camp for Caring – that brings together patients suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and other chronic conditions, for a weekend in the countryside.  Being close to nature is very therapeutic.  Each patient is assigned a volunteer who acts as a camp buddy.

Perhaps the Government could tie up with nearby countries to offer a similar programme for patients and their caregivers on an annual or biannual basis.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, May 13, 2013

Commitment to defence - HELP NSmen with jobs- Raymond's letter to the press

My letter to The New Paper (TNP) on the above matter was published on Monday 13th May 013.

The Government is exploring ways to sustain commitment from the younger generation of national servicemen.  Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who chairs the Committee to Strengthen National Service, has invited views and suggestions from the public, and I am responding to that call. 

Many of our youngsters may be worried about securing jobs after completing NS, especially with more foreigners landing on our shores.  

During my NS days, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) had a Job Placement Centre to help NSmen who had performed well to find jobs.  I benefited from this scheme and so did many of my NS colleagues. 

MINDEF should be helping the younger generation of today in the same way.  

If these servicemen know that the Government takes care of them, they in turn, will take care of the country.

And once NSmen have started working, their commanders should be able to send a performance assessment to their employers.  This could become a factor in their staff appraisals and play a part in their career path, encouraging NSmen to give their full commitment and loyalty to the state.

And once they reach a more advance stage NSmen who took their training seriously could be asked to serve as mentors to younger ones. They could be invited to motivate, inspire and give encouragement to young trainees through talks and workshops.  A token sum can be paid to these mentors in recognition of their time and effort.

The rising cost of living coupled with high medical fees is a concern of many older Singaporeans.  So perhaps, higher subsidies can be given to all NSmen once they hit 50.  

More attractive cash incentives can also be given to our silver-haired NSmen during periods when the economy is doing well. 

Older Singaporeans have made significant contributions to the country’s stability and security. They need to be appreciated and valued.  Seeing how this is done will, in my view, motivate younger servicemen to perform well.

These suggested rewards can also be extended to the spouses of NSmen for the many sacrifices the wives make when their husbands are away on training.  Such a scheme may even encourage marriage and procreation


Monday, May 6, 2013

Honour family caregivers through awards- Raymond A Fernando's letter to the press

My letter on the above matter was published in the online section of The Straits Times on Monday 6th May 2013.

Congratulations to the 54 health-care professionals who received the prestigious Healthcare Humanity Awards (“Health-care awards reunite old colleagues”; last Wednesday).

I am confident that such recognition will inspire other health-care workers to give back to society.

Besides these workers, there is another group of selfless people who demonstrate unconditional love. These are the family caregivers – the unsung heroes who serve as an inspiration to those whose lives they touch (“Don’t overlook caregivers’ well-being” by Ms Ada Chan Siew Foen; April 27).

Caring for family members who suffer from chronic illnesses or have special needs is not easy. It is a taxing task that calls for much personal sacrifice. It may also cause psychological strain, for instance, when a loved one’s illness suddenly takes a turn for the worse.

At the Ain Society’s charity dinner on April 27, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said Singapore should try to improve its system of meritocracy to ensure that it continues to benefit society, and this means showing compassion even while meritocracy is at work.

He rightly pointed out that “a compassionate meritocracy can help us build a resilient and inclusive society” while “a selfish meritocracy will divide us and ruin our society”.

We need to appreciate people in Singapore who do not always look out for economic gain, but the emotional “gains” of others. Family caregivers are such people. Yet, even though they give so much of themselves, often sacrificing their own health and social needs, their efforts have gone unrecognised for decades.

I urge the Government to recognise the dedication and commitment of family caregivers through Humanity Awards, and send the signal that caregiving is a noble job.
If we are to raise the standard of caregiving in Singapore to better cope with the rapidly ageing population, there must be more appreciation for family caregivers on a national level.

Raymond Anthony Fernando