Dr Ang Peng Chye, President, Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA)
My parliamentary colleague, Mr Henry Kwek
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. It is my pleasure to support the Alzheimer’s Disease Association and the Memories Café project today. The Memories Café provides a relaxed, friendly environment for persons with Dementia and their caregivers. More than 4,600 people have benefited since 2014. In this place, they make new friends, deepen existing friendships, widen their support network, and allow all of us to interact, to befriend, to understand.
2. Today, 1 in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore has dementia. For those aged above 85, it is 1 in 2 persons. By 2030, the number of people with dementia in Singapore is expected to exceed 100,0001. We need to support them well – and their caregivers too.
Importance of community support for those in need
3. The community is therefore very important for both patients and caregivers. Initiatives such as the Memories Café are of great value. Persons living with dementia and their caregivers receive comprehensive and coordinated support there, as well as a strong network of care.
4. Ms Priscilla Tan, for example, has been looking after her father since 2016. He has dementia. She wants her father to be active and engaged. But as an only child, this is also challenging. It is not easy to balance one’s personal needs with a parent’s.
5. The Memories Café gives Priscilla much-needed respite. She can rest while her father participates in activities such as music and drama. She can also meet other caregivers, who can offer peer support.
Changes that make LPA process easier and more convenient
6. Priscilla and her parents were concerned about what would happen if any of them were to lose mental capacity. They discovered the Lasting Power of Attorney, or LPA. It allows you to appoint a family member or loved ones to legally manage your assets and personal welfare, in the event that you lose mental capacity.
7. Priscilla’s parents decided to make their LPA. They join 67,0002 Singaporeans who have already done so. Under their LPA, her parents appointed Priscilla to act and make decisions on their behalf should they lose their ability to do so. Priscilla is also planning to make one herself. This is a good time because the application fee is waived until 31 August 2020.
8. In fact, from 1 August this year, the LPA application process will become even more convenient. We will shorten the mandatory waiting period before an LPA can be registered, from the current six weeks to three. This reduces the overall time required to make an LPA. But it is also sufficiently long for relevant parties to be informed that an LPA has been filed, and for it to be withdrawn if necessary. I encourage you to make a Lasting Power of Attorney if you have not done so. For those who have already made an LPA, please spread the word to your friends and families.
More comprehensive support for caregivers
9. The Government has been working to improve support for caregivers and family members of those who lose mental capacity, such as dementia patients. One important effort was setting up the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System (or RERF Committee for short). This collectively involved MSF, the Ministry of Law, the Family Justice Courts, social sector leaders, and family lawyers.
10. It can be very difficult for a family when a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia -- losing his or her ability to make decisions – but has not made an LPA.
11. In such cases where they have not made an LPA, family members need to apply to the Court to be appointed as a “Deputy”. Being appointed as a Deputy would allow them to make important decisions on behalf of their loved one. So if their loved one had made an LPA, that will be good because it saves all the difficulties. But if their loved one did not make an LPA and have lost mental capacity, then family members and caregivers have to appoint to court and apply to be their deputy.
12. This process can sometimes be long-drawn and complicated, and we received feedback from caregivers who have gone through the process. Many family members are also unsure of their duties and obligations after being appointed as deputies. Which add significantly to caregiving stress and burdens - because when a loved one makes an LPA, he or she decides who in the family they will entrust and determine what scope of decision making he or she can take on their behalf, if they lose mental capacity one day. But if their loved one does not make an LPA, and another person steps forward to be the deputy, - the person, often a member of the family, is appointed by the Court, without conscious decision by the person who has already lost mental capacity - due to dementia, for instance.
13. To improve this process, the RERF Committee has made several recommendations. First, the Committee proposed to simplify the application process, reducing the time and resources required. Second, the Committee also proposed to increase the support for deputies. For example, for training to be more easily reached, so that deputies can better understand their duties, and be more confident when carrying out their responsibilities.
14. The Committee will provide more details soon. They will conduct a public consultation exercise to seek views from stakeholders such as yourselves. I hope that many of you will share your thoughts and suggestions with us when the time comes.
15. The work that you do is not easy. I thank ADA’s management and staff, your volunteers and partners. You have made a real, positive impact in the lives of persons with dementia and their caregivers. May the strong support that you have received for initiatives like your Memories Café never falter. Indeed, that we may continue to build on these foundations, as we prepare for the years ahead.
1According to the Institute of Mental Health, currently 1 in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore has dementia; and for those aged above 85, this number increases to 1 in 2 persons. This translated to an estimated 82,000 persons with dementia last year.
2As at June 2019, the number of ever registered LPAs made by Singaporeans is 67,000.