The number of seniors in Singapore aged 65 years and above grew from 338,000 in 2010 to 614,000 in 2020. By 2030, this number will spike to over 900,000. This will result in a larger number of seniors living alone or who are frail, with increased health and social needs.
To help address this growing issue, Changi General Hospital (CGH) pioneered CareLine in 2016. A personal care telephone service, it provides 24/7 health and social support to vulnerable seniors in need of urgent assistance — especially those who are isolated or in poor health — while keeping them safe and healthy at home, and within the community. To date, almost 19,000 seniors have benefitted from CareLine.
The CareLine team clinched the National Clinical Excellence Team Award at the prestigious National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) 2022 for its outstanding contributions and achievements in establishing an innovative telecare ecosystem to journey with, care for and empower vulnerable seniors to live and age well in the community.
The CareLine team, with Minister for Health Mr Ong Ye Kung, at the National Medical Excellence Awards ceremony.
The power of relationships
The strength of CareLine lies in its care relationship model. When seniors are enrolled, they undergo an assessment which enables staff to understand their needs and preferences. The CareLine team then continually engages these seniors to further gain an in-depth understanding of their psychosocial needs. These insights — complemented by the comprehensive network of health and social care resources — allow CareLine to provide timely support to the seniors. Over the years, the CareLine team has responded to over 1,000 calls for urgent assistance and services.
CareLine facilitates seamless communication at all times with seniors who call in, enabling quicker understanding of their needs so that assistance can be rendered promptly. CareLine offers multiple language support options in English, Mandarin and Malay, as well as dialects including Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese.
With the ability to effectively communicate with seniors, the CareLine team makes regular calls to seniors to check in on their well-being, especially during festive seasons or special occasions like birthdays. These are the periods when some of the seniors living alone may feel lonelier.
Recalling a close relationship that CareLine has built, Ms Pearline Lee, Deputy Director, CGH Home Care & Safety, shares, “Our seniors tend to share with us their day-to-day life and emotions. There was a senior who called to inform us of her new job as an office janitor. Knowing that we call her regularly, she updated us on her working hours and shared that she would call us to let us know that she is safe as and when she is available.
CareLine also provides an integrated health and social support ecosystem for seniors through strong community partnerships. Under the close partnership that CareLine has with the Silver Generation Office (SGO), the outreach arm of the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), those seniors identified as vulnerable or staying alone by SGO are referred to the telecare service. With this inter-dependant relationship, the Silver Generation Ambassadors who are the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground, will — when prompted by CareLine — check on the seniors for any situation that is pressing and requires attention. Ms Claudia Ma, Senior Executive, CGH Home Care & Safety, remembers a senior who had to be warded for treatment. “She was worried that her daughter with special needs was unable to buy food on her own,” she shares. “The CareLine staff sought support from AIC SGO for a volunteer to deliver food to her daughter. The senior could then fully focus on her recuperation.”
“A key factor in CareLine’s success lies in the strong network and collaborations with community partners across Singapore, including grassroots organisations, government agencies, senior activity centres and voluntary welfare organisations,” says Adj Assoc Prof Eugene Shum. “CareLine coordinates with relevant agencies to better support seniors and empower them to live well and confidently in the community.
It has also transformed health and social care delivery for seniors in a scalable and effective way.” Since 2019, CareLine has scaled nationwide beyond the eastern region of Singapore.
As the needs of seniors continually evolve, CareLine will continue to support them and expand the network of partners so that these seniors can continue to live and age well in the community.
Left to right: The CareLine team, consisting of Ms Claudia Ma, Senior Executive, Home Care & Safety, CGH; Mr Eric Chen, Director (Operations), Silver Generation Office, Agency for Integrated Care; Adjunct Associate Professor Eugene Shum, Chief Community Development Officer, CGH, and Director, Community Partnership, SingHealth Office of Regional Health; and Ms Pearline Lee, Deputy Director, Home Care & Safety, CGH.
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