The New Norms for Eldercare Sector

By Lim Yeng Peng

The COVID-19 pandemic swept our lives and norms away like a tsunami of great intense and magnitude. Unfortunately, seniors and people with pre-existing conditions are deemed more susceptible to the virus thus it has great impact on all eldercare service operators in Singapore.

As highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent address on 31 May, the COVID-19 will not disappear, it will “remain with humankind and become endemic. The virus will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come. This also means we will see small outbreaks of the disease from time to time in Singapore as well.” He shared that the nation has to “continually adjust our strategies and raise our game to keep COVID-19 under control. Specifically, there are three things that we have to do more of and faster: testing, contact tracing and vaccination.”

And this testing, tracing and vaccination (as well as subsequent booster jabs) will likely be administered more vigorously in the eldercare sector – especially institutional care facilities where the higher level of intensive support and vulnerability of older residents puts both staff and residents at higher risks of infection.

Our operations and staff movement have to be properly documented to help speedy tracing and containment. We must be constantly vigilant in maintaining good hygiene and adhering to stricter safety rules as well. We should factor in regular self-testing for all frontline staff to help contain the virus further thus protect our elders and staff.

While community partnership is important, we must constantly plan our care strategy and sanitise ourselves to minimise cross-contamination among our own services, as well as among our community partners.

The pandemic has sped up Singapore’s digital transformation within the past one year. Almost every Singaporean now access the malls, supermarkets, offices, schools, etc by using a TraceTogether mobile app or token and the mobile application allows individuals to do quick checks on possible exposures. Services and opportunities such as telemedicines, medical video conferencing, home exercise videos and online wellness guides, homebased learning and blended learning etc are now abundant. Eldercare service providers and professionals must integrate all these into their current and future operations. Healthcare frontliners should help elders and families to get connected digitally and smoothly as well so as to ensure no one gets left out in the new digital world.

Work has changed drastically too. Flexible work arrangement and work-from-home became a norm for most companies and organisations – leading to some workers suffering from stress from working in isolation and trying to manage their work-life-balance all from home. This is a great challenge to eldercare sector as we strive to maintain both high technology and high “touch”. The sector has always faced a manpower crunch too so management must constantly help to check on their staff’s mental well-being. 

The circuit breaker period brought to light the rising need to help our caregivers who have been struggling to manage the many changes to their lifestyle and routines, on top of the constant disruptions to care services vital to their older persons. As the virus becomes endemic, caregivers will have to go through more cycles of changes and struggles and they will need more help from service providers as they adjust their care routines and plans.

In the new future, both Singapore and eldercare sector must remain nimble in our operations and be able to switch to different modes of care in accordance with the virus situation and ministerial advisories. Our care professionals must instil in our clients and caregivers a need for them to stay alert, flexible and agile – and the trust, relationship and communication between teams and clients should remain strong and resilient.


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