Two strokes over the course of 13 years and a hip injury seven years ago left 75-year-old Madam Ho Ah Foong paralysed. She also has Parkinson disease, hypertension and osteoporosis. For a long time, she has been housebound in the three-room flat she shares with her 82-year-old husband and domestic helper-caregiver.

Like Mdm Ho, many old people cannot lead active, independent lives because of health problems. Some find it hard to move around in their own homes and, in extreme cases, may not step out of their homes for months, or even years.

With the expanded Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) announced on July 1, 2013, Mdm Ho and other old people can get subsidies to buy a range of equipment to help them become more mobile and independent.

The $50 million SMF subsidises the purchase of a wider range of devices such as commodes, hospital beds, pressure relief cushions and mattresses, and motorised wheelchairs needed for independent living. Previously, the subsidies covered only standard mobility devices like walking sticks and basic wheelchairs. A new category, the Consumables Subsidy, covers items like milk feeds, diapers and wound dressings for people who are cared for at home or nursing homes.

In Mdm Ho’s case, her various ailments mean that she cannot sit upright for long periods. Her head also needs to be supported. Her family applied to the SMF for help to buy a wheelchair, a pressure relief cushion and mattress, and a reclining geriatric chair.

With her new reclining chair, she is now able to watch television comfortably, while the pressure cushion and mattress help prevent bedsores from sitting or lying in bed for long periods. She also gets to go out more as her carer is able to manoeuvre the new wheelchair more easily. It is also lighter than her old one.

As Mdm Ho lives in a three-room HDB flat, she automatically qualifies for the 90 per cent Assistive Devices Subsidy. The new equipment that gives her more comfort and a better quality of life, costs her family $130, instead of $1,300.

Like Mdm Ho, Mr Yasmuddin, 92, is another recent beneficiary of the expanded SMF. Mr Yasmuddin uses a wheelchair to go out because he has trouble walking. At home, he can move about by holding on to the furniture for support. As he qualifies for the 90 per cent Assistive Devices Subsidy – he lives with his elderly wife in a two-room rental flat – he was able to buy an aluminium shower chair for $6, which has proven to be a great help when his wife helps him with his daily shower.

It has also become easier to apply for the subsidies. Previously, all applications for the SMF had to be approved by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). Now, applications can be made at 114 community- based service providers island-wide, including restructured and community hospitals, dementia day-care centres and senior activity centres. These AIC trained service providers can process and approve applications, reducing applicants’ queuing and waiting time.

How the Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) can help

1. Assistive Devices Subsidy

It covers a wide range of non-standard devices, including motorised wheelchairs, hospital beds, pressure relief cushions and mattresses, geriatric chairs, pushchairs, hearing aids, and special equipment like ventilators.

Subsidy cap

Up to 90 per cent of the device’s actual cost will be subsidised. the maximum subsidy will depend on the type of device required. Applicants must be assessed by a qualified assessor to certify the need and type of device required.

Who qualifies?

  • Singapore citizen, aged 60 and above.
  • Has monthly per capita household income of $1,800 or less; or the annual value of residence (as shown on NRIC) must be below $13,000 and below for those with no household income.
  • Must pass means-test under Ministry of Health’s Intermediate and Long Term Care (ILTC) non-residential framework.
  • Must not already receiving subsidies for the same items.

How to apply

Apply at all Ministry of Health (MOH)-funded restructured hospitals, community hospitals, dementia day-care centres, dialysis centres, home care service providers, senior activity centres, and the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC).

2. Transport subsidy

It reduces the financial strain on older people who require specialised transport. Previously, the subsidy was available only to people getting active rehabilitation at MOH-funded day rehabilitation centres, but it is now open to those attending dementia day-care centres or renal dialysis centres too.

Subsidy cap

The subsidy amount will depend on the income means test result.

Who qualifies?

  • Singapore citizen, aged 55 and above and attending a MOH-funded day rehabilitation centre, dialysis centre, or dementia day-care centre.
  • Applicant needs a wheelchair to move around safely, and specialised transport to travel from home to the care centre.
  • ▪ Has monthly per capita household income of $2,600 or less; or the annual value of residence (as shown on NRIC) must be below $13,000 and below for those with no household income.

How to apply

Speak to the therapist or manager at the centre that the applicant attends. If the criteria are met, the centre staff will process the application.

3. Consumables subsidy

It helps defray expenses for frail seniors who are eligible for nursing homes but prefer to stay at home while getting home-based medical and nursing services. It covers home healthcare items like such as milk feeds, diapers, and wound dressings.

Subsidy cap

The subsidy amount will depend on the income means test result.

Who qualifies?

  • Singapore citizen, aged 60 and above.
  • Applicant is receiving care at home and from home-based healthcare or Singapore Programme for Integrated Care for the Elderly (SPICE) providers.
  • Has monthly per capita household income of $1,800 or less or the annual value of residence (as shown on NRIC) must be below $13,000 and below for those with no household income.
  • Must undergo assessment to determine the need and type of healthcare items required.
    ▪ Must not already receiving subsidies for the same items.

How to apply

Speak to the nurse or manager of the home-based healthcare service providers. People who meet the criteria will get help assistance with their applications.

For more information, visit silverpages.sg

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