How To Care for Loved Ones Who Have Dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia in Singapore can be a deeply rewarding yet challenging journey. A recent study found that 92,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in Singapore, and this number is projected to go up to 152,000 over the next eight years. As the number of individuals diagnosed with dementia continues to rise, understanding the intricacies of this condition becomes crucial for caregivers.

Prepare for the journey

Before embarking on the caregiving journey, it is essential to educate yourself about dementia. Understanding the nature of the disease, its symptoms, and the challenges it poses will better equip you to provide effective care. Consider joining support groups, reading reputable sources, and consulting healthcare professionals to gain insights into the condition.

Also, knowing how to interpret your loved one’s actions is crucial. Dementia can manifest in various ways, including memory loss, confusion, and changes in behaviour. Patience and empathy are vital when interacting with someone with dementia. Learning about their life history and preferences can help create a more supportive and familiar environment for them.

Once you learn about how dementia is likely to progress, you can then plan your resources according to your loved one’s needs at each stage. For instance, you can start to gauge how your finances may be affected by medical bills, find out how much Medisave savings you can tap on, and if health insurance can help to relieve your burden.

Availability and cost of treatment for dementia

While there is no definitive cure for dementia, therapies and medications can be employed to minimise its symptoms. In Singapore, various medical facilities and specialists offer diagnoses and treatment for dementia. The cost of treatment for dementia may vary depending on the severity of the condition, the chosen healthcare provider, and the type of interventions required.

For instance, to obtain an official diagnosis of dementia, you have to bring your loved one to a specialist and undergo diagnostic tests. A brain scan can cost around S$400, a psychiatric evaluation can cost about S$150 per hour, a neurological evaluation can cost about S$190 per session, and laboratory tests such as positron emission tomography (PET) can cost about S$400 each.

Treatments for dementia usually entail physical and psychiatric treatments that help patients maintain their physical and mental abilities. Common dementia treatments include occupational therapy (about S$180 per session), rehabilitation (about S$160 per session at a private clinic) and medications (about S$200 per month).

Day care services for dementia patients are also available in Singapore. For instance, the estimated cost for the dementia day care service provided by the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC) ranges between S$1,260 and S$1,575 per month before subsidies, assuming daily attendance on weekdays and excluding transport services. You may apply for subsidies, and the received amount varies depending on your family’s income.

It is advisable to explore different healthcare options, including public and private institutions, to find the most suitable and affordable care for your loved one.

How insurance can protect your loved ones with dementia

1. Medisave withdrawal

Singaporeans can withdraw up to S$500 per year from their MediSave accounts for treatments of chronic diseases, including dementia. This financial support can help offset some of the healthcare expenses associated with dementia care. Also, the Medishield life plan can cover 50-80% of the bill for B2/C type wards, should your loved one require hospitalisation.

2. CareShield Life plan

Singapore citizens and permanent residents who were born from 1980 onwards will automatically become a CareShield Life policyholder by the end of 2020 or once they reach the age of 30, whichever is later. If the patient is assessed as being unable to do 3 out of 6 activities of daily living (ADLs), which include feeding, dressing, toileting, washing, mobility and transferring, the payout amount will start at S$600/month. The payout amount increases as you continue to pay your annual premiums. However, they will remain constant as soon as you make a successful claim.

You may consider upgrading your CareShield life plan with supplementary plans provided by private insurers. In exchange for a higher premium, it gives you a higher payout package.

3. Explore insurance plans that cover dementia

Dementia is one of the 37 common critical illnesses recognised by the Life Insurance Association of Singapore. Most Critical Illness Plans in Singapore provide coverage for Alzheimer’s or severe dementia.  You may want to find out more about the critical illness plans offered by different insurance companies and compare them to see which plan fits your needs best.

A few other insurance plans catered towards dementia patients have also been newly launched this year. For instance, in August 2023, AIA Singapore launched AIA Centurion PA, a personal accident (PA) insurance plan that aims to holistically address the growing needs of Singapore’s increasingly ageing population. This is the first personal accident plan in Singapore that covers neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease/Severe Dementia and Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease, and allows reimbursement of day or home care services.

In the same month, DBS Bank partnered with Chubb to offer Dementia Caregiver Protect, a first-in-market insurance solution that provides support for dementia caregivers and care recipients.

Apart from the above insurance plans, you may also explore care subsidies and funding options to help ease the financial burden. For instance, should you want to make your home more elderly-friendly, such as adding grab bars and slip-resistant treatment to floor tiles, you can check out Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) which offers subsidies for home modifications.

Read more: What Illnesses Should Your Critical Illness Insurance Cover?

Tips for caregivers

It may get difficult and frustrating at times as you take care of your loved one with dementia. Remember, caring for a loved one with dementia is a marathon, not a sprint. Your love for the patient, be it your spouse, parent, or sibling, is what will see you through. Here are some tips that can help you with your caregiving journey:

1. Boost his or her sense of self-worth

Understand that your loved one is more than their illness.  Encourage your loved one to engage in simple tasks and activities. This not only helps maintain their sense of independence but also boosts their self-worth. Light household chores, such as folding laundry or setting the table, can provide a sense of accomplishment.

2. Communicate effectively

Communicate clearly and simply. Use familiar and positive language, and maintain eye contact. Be patient and listen attentively, as individuals with dementia may need extra time to process information.

3. Establish a routine

Creating a daily routine can provide a sense of stability and predictability, reducing anxiety for individuals with dementia. Consistency in daily activities, mealtimes, and bedtime can be beneficial.

4. Seek support

Caregiving can be emotionally and physically demanding. Reach out to support groups, friends, or family members for assistance. Consider professional caregiving services to provide respite when needed.

Read more: Private Nurses or Live-In Caregivers: Cost of Caregiving Services in Singapore

How to prevent dementia

Prevention is always better than cure. While not all cases of dementia can be prevented, certain lifestyle choices can contribute to reducing the risk:

1. Maintain a healthy diet

Encourage a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some studies suggest that diets high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may have protective effects on cognitive function.

2. Regular exercise

Physical activity has been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline. Engage in regular exercise routines that suit the individual’s abilities and preferences.

3. Mental stimulation

Keep the mind active through activities such as reading, puzzles, and social interactions. Continued mental stimulation may help maintain cognitive function.

4. Manage chronic conditions

Effectively manage and control conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, as they are associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Dementia may erode a person’s mental abilities, but it doesn’t change their capacity for love. Caring for a loved one with dementia may be tough, but with knowledge and love, it can become a journey of warmth and connection. Remember to pace yourself as you care for your loved one and celebrate small wins during this journey!

Read more: How To File for Critical Illness Insurance Claims and Steps To Take Note Of

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