Minds launching financial planning modules for caregivers , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Minds launching financial planning modules for caregivers

The Choos are in their 70s, but unlike their friends who have grown children supporting them, their only child is intellectually disabled and still requires care.

Mr Choo, who declined to reveal his full name, has discussed his son’s future care with his 35-year-old niece, but is mindful that she may want to start her own family in future.

The 73-year-old is starting to look for residential homes for Mr Nigel Choo, 43, when he and his wife, 76, are no longer around to look after him.

The couple will get some guidance when a series of six modules on life plans, living arrangements, and support networks and services come out later in 2024.

The modules are part of Minds’ beefed up online portal on future care planning options for caregivers, called FutureReady.

Other new modules will cover topics such as insurance, schemes and grants as well as health services and medical screening.

This came after Minds saw an uptick in inquiries from caregivers on making future care arrangements, after the first six FutureReady modules on legal issues, finances, health and accommodation were launched in 2023.

Minds worked with Timeliss, an estate and legacy specialist portal, to develop a user-friendly future care planning portal.

The current modules guide caregivers on how to make a will, a Central Provident Fund nomination and an advance care plan, among other things.

“The conversations highlighted a growing concern among caregivers regarding future planning for their children with special needs,” said Ms Ong Lay Hoon, director of community-based support services at Minds.

“They wanted more detailed information on the various schemes and grants available, along with guidance on asset distribution to ensure their children’s financial security in their absence.”

In the financial year ending March 2023, Minds reached more than 7,000 clients.

Developed in collaboration with disability agency SG Enable, the free online resource is part of Minds’ Future Care Planning programme for clients and caregivers.

Other initiatives under the programme include life coaching to enhance clients’ abilities for independent living, and the Assisted Deputyship Application Programme. The latter helps parents of those graduating from special education schools to be appointed to continue making legal decisions for their child after they turn 21.

Mr Choo was the sole breadwinner in his family, retiring from his corporate career in a marine engineering firm at 71. His wife took care of their son when he was at work.

His son goes to the Touch Centre for Independent Living – a day activity facility that teaches daily living skills. He takes part in social activities run by Minds MeToo! Club and Minds’ subsidiary voluntary wing MYG almost every day.

He has learnt to take the train or bus to his weekly activities by himself, cook instant noodles and buy food near his family’s five-room flat in Tiong Bahru.

Regular membership in the Minds MeToo! Club, which has daily activities such as hikes, crafts, baking and reading, costs $150 a year. The Touch Centre for Independent Living charges $20 to $1,135 per month as at January 2023, depending on household income. 

Mr Choo’s hope is that his son can one day hold down a job. The latter has not had a job before, as he has trouble communicating with others and staying focused on a task.

The father’s worry deepened when his son was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2023.

“Hopefully, my son does not have any major medical problems apart from being a diabetic. I once asked an agent if I could buy insurance coverage for him but was told it was difficult due to his medical problem,” he said.

His son has only a small amount in his MediSave account as he does not work.

His father set up an account with the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) in 2023, where he set aside a modest five-figure sum to help tide his son through. But “it’s definitely not enough to sustain him”, he said.

An SNTC trust ensures a person’s loved one who has special needs receives gifts under the person’s will, insurance and CPF nomination. Supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, SNTC is a non-profit trust company set up to provide affordable trust services for people with disabilities.

“I also have insurance of my own that will go to him when I say ‘bye bye’,” Mr Choo added.

He worries about the future when he and his wife might require helpers in their home. Though they are well, “in health, there’s no guarantee”, he said, sharing that his wife suffered a mini stroke around end-2021.

Another caregiver concerned about her child’s future is Ms T. Porchelvi, 60, who is both provider and carer for her 33-year-old son, who has autism and epilepsy, and her 80-year-old mother.

Mr Janarthan Balakrishnan is non-verbal and spends most of his time at home.

His mum tried to enrol him in a special school when he was young, but he could not stay on due to his aggressive behaviour towards his peers.

Ms Porchelvi got divorced when her son was five. Her parents helped take care of him and her older daughter, while she was at work in an administrative role. 

Mr Janarthan’s only interactions were with his mother and grandparents, who showered him with love. When his grandfather died in 2015, he became depressed.

“He didn’t understand why the grandfather was suddenly not there. It took many years for us to make him understand that grandfather is gone,” said Ms Porchelvi.

He had to get injections every three weeks to regulate his mood five years ago.

Ms Porchelvi engaged a helper three months ago to care for her ailing mother and son while she is at work. She also took up side jobs like baking and selling murukku online.

To stay calm, Mr Janarthan spends most of his time watching Tamil movies. There are four cable TV subscriptions in the family’s three-room flat in Yishun, costing $300 a month.

Another unexpected cost is food, as Mr Janarthan’s tastes change on a whim. He would refuse to eat home-cooked fare, pizza and chicken that he had relished before. This means food already bought or prepared goes to waste.

Mr Janarthan now gets training from Minds’ home-based care services every Thursday on basic skills such as solving puzzles as well as throwing and catching a ball.

“He is slow to develop, so let him develop slowly. I’m hoping one day he can understand everything as an adult,” said Ms Porchelvi, who noted that he knows the names of all the Tamil movies that fill his days.

“It’s a slim chance. But who knows? Miracles may happen.”