Short-Term Alternatives to Domestic Helpers in Singapore

With a shortage of domestic helpers due to COVID-19, there's a need to look at different care alternatives for your loved ones. Here are some short term care solutions you can consider as you work out your next steps.

by Nathasha Lee

While domestic helpers have been a popular care option for many Singaporeans, the current shortage of domestic helpers due to COVID-19, coupled with the rising cost of hiring a domestic helper, has resulted in a greater need for alternative care solutions.  

Whether you are having trouble getting a domestic helper due to the pandemic or simply looking for a short-term care alternative when your domestic helper is away, here’s everything you need to know about respite care, and how it can be used as a short or long-term alternative to hiring a domestic helper!

What is Respite Care?

Respite care refers to short-term temporary care options that aim at providing you extra assistance or relief from constant care for your loved ones. Staff who provide respite care are often specially trained to carry out common medical procedures for seniors with chronic conditions, like changing feeding tubes or performing kidney dialysis.

Respite care is particularly useful if your older family members have physical conditions, like hypertension, or psychological conditions like advanced dementia that need specialised care.

In contrast to caregiving staff that can help with respite care, domestic helpers are often trained to do a general variety of household-related skills. Domestic helpers might be hired on a live-in or part-time basis.

Besides taking care of the elderly, they are also expected to cook, clean the house, do laundry, and look after children. Often, domestic helpers are not professionally trained to look after older people with specialised needs.

Respite care and domestic helpers can be engaged simultaneously. For example, when your domestic helper needs to go on leave, you might consider letting your older family member stay in a senior care centre for a day or two so that your family will be less overwhelmed.

What Respite Care Options Are There in Singapore?

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Here are the most common respite care options in Singapore:

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are residential care facilities where older people can stay long-term. Nursing homes provide not just food and accommodation for their residents but can administer specialised care for the medical conditions that some seniors might have.

Nursing staff are available around-the-clock to attend to the needs of residents, such as changing feeding tubes or performing physiotherapy exercises. Many nursing homes also organise social activities that help their residents maintain their mental well-being and help them be socially connected to others.

In Singapore, most nursing homes require a minimum stay of seven days.

Senior Care Centres

Senior care centres differ from nursing homes in that they are not intended for long-term residents. Rather, seniors can be looked after during working hours, which is often when their primary caregivers and loved ones are at work. 

Like nursing homes, senior care centres organise a variety of social and recreational activities for older people like chair hockey, karaoke and painting sessions.

Staff at senior care centres can also care for seniors’ daily needs, such as feeding and getting dressed, while they are at the centre. Many senior care centres also have customised programmes for older people with conditions like dementia to help them maintain or improve their mental well-being.

Night Respite Care

Night respite care caters to people who require assistance in caring for their senior family members at night. People with advanced dementia often exhibit restlessness at night. This behaviour is called sundowning, and it can be challenging for caregivers to handle in the long-term. Night respite care is also useful for older people recovering from severe illness or surgery who require attention throughout the day. Night respite caregivers typically work overnight from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and are paid on a per-day basis.

We have compiled some lists of the best nursing homes and the best senior care centres in Singapore for you to choose from if you decide to select those options.

Home Care Solutions At Your Fingertips

 Homage is a home-based care solutions platform connecting professional caregivers with families in Singapore. Be it respite care or long-term care, Homage offers various solutions to help your loved ones recover in the comfort of home.

For more information on Homage services, simply fill up this form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Care Advisory team.

Is Respite Care A Good Alternative When Your Domestic Helper is Away?

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Now that you are aware of the different options available for respite care in Singapore, how can you decide which option is the best for you? Here are some factors you might want to think about when deciding on care options for your senior loved ones:

Your Loved One’s Condition and Needs

Your loved one’s health condition is something you need to consider before you decide on a care option. Some seniors might require assistance in carrying out activities of daily living, such as feeding and moving from a bed to a chair. Others might have more severe health conditions that require constant attention or specialised help, such as seniors who might be on a breathing tube or need to have a catheter regularly replaced.

Seniors with advanced dementia might also require additional care when they experience sundowning.

Sundowning behaviours include agitation, carelessness, and restlessness as their internal body clock changes so that they are awake during the night.

Domestic helpers might be able to carry out simple acts of assistance, like helping an older family member take a shower or guiding them through simple exercises. However, many of them would not be equipped with the professional skills and knowledge needed to assist seniors with advanced health conditions.

As such, seniors who require more attention and close monitoring may be more well-suited to living in a nursing home where staff can provide them with dedicated, round-the-clock care.

Professional Respite Care Services For Your Loved One

 Homage provides respite care services that are personalised to your loved one’s needs. Our Care Professionals are able to provide personal care,  medication reminders, and perform night care duties should your loved one requires it. 

Fill up this form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Care Advisory team.

Service Availability

If you have a live-in domestic helper, they might be available to monitor your older loved one at home. Nonetheless, domestic helpers might have responsibilities for other household chores and might be unable to spend all their time taking care of an older person.

Part-time domestic helpers will only spend a limited period of time in the house and might not be physically present to look after your senior loved ones if they have urgent needs.

According to current Ministry of Manpower (MOM) regulations, employers must give their foreign domestic helpers at least one rest day a month that cannot be compensated away with additional pay. 

Besides government guidelines, it is still important that you give your domestic helper adequate rest, so as to prevent them from feeling exhausted and burnt out as well. 

Ultimately, it is important to know the periods of time when your senior family members would require the most attention and look for services that you can use for those times.

For example, if your senior is asleep for most of the day but is awake and active at night, it might be a better option to hire night respite care than make your domestic helper stay awake throughout the night. If you are confident that you can look after your senior most of the time except for occasional periods when you are too busy, you can consider senior care centres instead.

Cost of Care Services

Booking respite care on a daily basis would cost between $100 to $150 a day.

The typical cost of staying at a nursing home ranges from $1,200 to $1,400 a month. In comparison, employing a domestic helper would cost around $600 a month. This does not include additional costs for your helper’s living expenses or payment if your helper decides to work on her rest days for extra income.

Hiring a domestic helper would appear to be cheaper. However, if you take into account some of the hidden costs and fees payable, it may not be the best option considering that the domestic helper’s role attention will be split between household chores and caregiving for your loved one. 

There are subsidies available for courses which you can let your domestic helpers sign up for to learn how to take care of older family members with different needs. For example, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) offers a basic eldercare course that domestic helpers can sign up for.

If you currently have a domestic helper and want to equip her with more specialised skills to care for older family members, you will need to take the cost of these courses into account.

Get Respite Care Services From Just $23/hr*

On average, respite care costs approximately $100 to $150 per day. Our Home Care Packages gives you the flexibility to customise care sessions based on your loved one’s needs.

Fill up this form to find out more about our respite care services with our Care Advisory team.

Availability of Subsidies

While staying at a nursing home might seem expensive, there are subsidies available to offset these costs by as much as 80 per cent. You are eligible for Ministry of Health (MOH) subsidies if your senior is admitted to a care facility from a MOH-funded service provider.

These care facilities can include residential nursing facilities or centre-based services like at a senior care centre.

Subsidies are available for Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) and differ based on your household income bracket. To apply for these subsidies, you need to approach the staff of government hospitals or MOH-funded care facilities.

They will guide you through the application process and help you to fill in a means test form where you will need to declare your household income. 

There are comparatively fewer subsidies available for hiring domestic helpers. The Caregivers’ Training Grant is available to subsidise the cost of caregiving courses available to your domestic helper.

Some of these courses are taught in languages that many domestic helpers speak like Tagalog, Burmese and Indonesian. More information on the Caregivers’ Training Grant is available at our article here.

Short-Term Alternatives to Domestic Helpers in Singapore

At the end of the day, respite care can be a good supplement to having a domestic helper in Singapore. If you already have a domestic helper, you can still employ respite care services especially when you observe that your loved one requires a higher level of care. For the short term, respite care also serves as a good care solution for your loved one, as it is possible to secure on-demand respite care services as and when you need them.

Homage can help to take on some of the responsibilities that are normally required of nursing homes and senior care centres. Some of the tasks our Care Professionals can help you with include:

  • Assisting your senior with activities of daily living like showering, feeding and getting dressed
  • Care for your senior throughout the night to prevent the risk of falling or wandering
  • Create a customised care plan based on your senior’s needs to help them improve their health with a customised home therapy plan
  • Monitor your seniors’ health condition and perform procedures like administering insulin or changing feeding tubes.

You can definitely consider Homage as a care option to help you meet your loved ones’ needs. All you need to do to start enjoying Homage services is to download our free mobile app and book an appointment.

Fill up the form below for a free consultation with our Care Advisory team. 

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  1. Caregiver Training Course | Agency for Integrated Care. (n.d.). Agency for Integrated Care. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from
  2. Getting Respite. (n.d.). Agency for Integrated Care. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from
  3. Ho, T. (2021, July 1). [2021 Edition] How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Maid In Singapore? DollarsAndSense.Sg.
  4. Leo, L. (2021, July 22). Employers must provide maids with rest day that cannot be compensated away: MOM. CNA.
  5. MOH | Subsidies for Government-funded Intermediate Long-Term Care Services. (n.d.). Ministry of Health. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from
  6. Senior Day Care | Elderly Care Services. (2021, August 24). NTUC Health.
  7. Sleep Issues and Sundowning. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from
About the Writer
Nathasha Lee
Nathasha Lee is a final-year Anthropology major at Yale-NUS College. She hopes her writing can make a positive difference in the lives of readers, no matter how small. In her spare time, she enjoys making art, listening to podcasts, and drinking lots of tea.
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