Caring for your elderly parents
We all come to a stage in life, when we are faced with this question: What do I do when my parents can no longer take care of themselves? It’s a question that elicits strong emotions but uncertain answers – us wanting to help with the needs of our elderly parents, but having limited time, energy, and perhaps financial resources to draw upon.
Whether your parents are about to retire or are in active retirement, here are some tips to help manage your finances when it comes to caring for your parents.
Tapping on schemes and subsidies
The cost of living in Singapore has increased significantly since our parents’ days, but the government has in place a range of schemes and subsidies for seniors to mitigate their expenses.
Senior Citizen concession card
If your parents are 60 and above, get them to apply for a Senior Citizen concession card. It not only allows them to enjoy concessionary travel rates on public buses and the MRT, but also entitles them to special discounts at selected shops, dining outlets and supermarkets.
Pioneer Generation package
Eligible seniors born before 1950 can take up the Pioneer Generation package, which offers a range of benefits including subsidies on medical care, regular top-ups to Medisave accounts, and premium subsidies for the MediShield Life insurance scheme.
As your parents’ bodies age and become more susceptible to falls, making some modifications to your parents’ home may be necessary. You could apply for the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme to retrofit your parents’ HDB apartments with non-slip bathroom tiles, grab bars in the toilets, and mini ramps, so as to ensure their safety and mobility. Depending on the flat type, the subsidy can cover up to 95% of the total cost of enhancement works.
If your parents require assistive devices like a wheelchair, special transport arrangements to dialysis or day hospice services, or home healthcare items (e.g. adult diapers, milk supplements), you can leverage on the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund which provides subsidies for these items. Some restrictions apply so do find out if your parents qualify.
Should your family income be insufficient to support your parents, you can consider applying for assistance schemes such as the ComCare Long Term Assistance (also known as Public Assistance), that provide cash payouts to support sustenance. Elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above on this scheme will receive an additional Silver Support payout of $300 per quarter.
Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS)
Another option for parents staying in HDB flats would be the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS). Under this scheme, elderly flat owners of a 4-room or smaller flat can choose to sell the tail-end of their lease back to HDB. Certain restrictions apply, for example, the flat must have at least 20 years of lease to sell to HDB, and the gross monthly household income mustn’t exceed S$12,000. The net proceeds from the sale will go to their CPF Retirement Account (RA), which can then be used to purchase a CPF LIFE Plan, thus providing your parents with a monthly income for life, while still living in their HDB.
Helping your parents live well
Beyond financial aids and plans, it is also important to care for your parents’ physical and mental well-being. No one wants to be a burden and they shouldn’t be made to feel that way. Depending on their health, mobility and independence, here are some steps you can consider:
Schedule regular visits
Besides regular face-time with your parents, encourage them to keep in touch with their community of friends and neighbours. A healthy social circle will help keep loneliness and isolation at bay, in turn reducing their chances of getting age-related health issues, such as dementia.
Engage external help
If your parents are staying with you but need more full-time attention than you are able to provide, you may need to engage external help. Talk to them about the option of staying in a well-managed Senior’s Home, or consider employing a maid with basic nursing skills and experience in caring for older folks to help them with their daily activities.
See also: The costs of hiring a domestic helper
Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you have siblings, talk to them about sharing the costs of medical expenses, health supplies and the like. With your folks, listen to their point of view and assure them that you have their best interests at heart. Strive to reach an amicable consensus on how you can help one another.
Encourage regular check-ups
Early detection of serious illnesses can help save lives, while giving the patient more options on what to do next. If your parents are still hale and hearty, encourage them to go for regular screenings and health check-ups.
Increase their protection coverage
Adequate medical insurance helps to ensure that major illnesses or ailments do not result in a sizeable gap in your finances. You can help by topping up their CPF accounts, in turn contributing to their MediShield premiums, or attaching riders to enhance their coverage:
MyShield is an additional cover that integrates with MediShield Life to provide you or your parents with wider and higher coverage for medical expenses incurred
MyHealthPlus increases the medical coverage further, on top of MyShield plan
Top up their monthly allowance
Although CPF LIFE provides Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents above 65 years with a monthly payout as long as they live, the amount may not be sufficient. You can choose to top up your parents’ Retirement Account or purchase an annuity such as RetireReady, to enjoy higher payouts.
Ensure your own retirement planning
Working out your parents’ finances and care is a good time to reflect on your own retirement preparedness. If you’d like a free assessment of your current financial health and what steps you can take to ensure adequate coverage, please contact us.