Do you know that Singaporeans over 60 can buy mobility aids with up to 90 percent subsidy from the Senior’s Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF)? Find out how this financial scheme helps the elderly.
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's 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 for a range of equipment that helps them become more mobile and independent.
SMF is split into 2 components, which are for subsidies for Home Healthcare Items, and subsidies for Assistive Devices. Subsidises for Assistive Devices covers a wide range 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. The Home Healthcare Items subsidy covers items like milk supplements, adult diapers and wound dressings for frail seniors who choose to stay at home instead of a nursing home.
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 newer and lighter wheelchair more easily 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.
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.
- Singapore citizen, aged 60 and above.
- Has monthly per capita household income of $2,000 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 reside in a nursing home.
- Must not already receiving subsidies for the same items.
- Additional criteria for motorised devices
- Must not have a full time caregiver, or caregiver is unable to support care needs.
- Does not have the ability to operate a manual wheelchair independantly.
- Mentally and physically able to use the device in a safe manner.
To apply, talk to your social worker or therapist if you are under the care of a public or community hospital, day rehabilitation center or senior care centre. Alternatively, call the AIC hotline at 1800-650-6060 for more information.
2. Home Healthcare Items 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.
- Singapore citizen, aged 60 and above.
- Applicant is receiving one of the following services: home nursing, home medical, home palliative services, Integrated Home & Day Care (IHDC) packages.
- Has monthly per capita household income of $2,000 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 be already receiving subsidies for the same items.
To apply, talk to your respective home healthcare provider.