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Supporting Your Loved One with Dementia During the Election
7 Min Read

Every citizen has the right to vote, so does one living with dementia. According to the Parliamentary Elections Act, persons living with dementia are not disqualified from voting. In fact, those living with dementia who are still able to make informed choices are encouraged to exercise their rights and to fulfil their civil responsibility as a citizen.

Here are some general guidelines that may help caregivers and family members to support their loved one living with dementia for the Polling Day.

Voting and Dementia

Voting is compulsory in Singapore. All Singapore citizens whose names are in the Register of Electors have the obligation to cast their votes on Polling Day and to exercise their rights to elect the leaders for their country.

For caregivers who are directly impacted by the daily decisions made by their loved ones living with dementia, it is natural for them to be concerned about their loved ones’ ability as a responsible voter. Here are some commonly asked questions.

DOES MY LOVED ONE HAVE THE MENTAL CAPACITY TO VOTE?

According to the Mental Capacity Act, section 5(1), a person who is unable to make a decision if this person cannot perform one or more of the following tasks in relation to making a specific decision at the time the decision needs to be made1 :

  1. Understand information: Can your loved one understand the information that is relevant to the decision? The information can be communicated using simple language, visual aids, or other methods.

    Example: Your loved one is not feeling well and you advise to put on a mask before leaving the house. Is your loved one able to understand the reason behind your advice?

  2. Remember information: Is your loved one able to retain information for long enough to consider, communicate, and arrive at a decision?

    Example: You and your loved one run through the daily schedule together. You inform the person about a medical appointment today and ask whether taking a bus or a taxi to the clinic is preferred. Is your loved one able to retain this information long enough to decide on the mode of transport to the clinic?

  3. Assess information: Is your loved one able to consider, with or without help, the advantages or disadvantages of what is presented before making a decision?

    Example: You notice that your loved one is feeling cold. You ask whether a blanket or adjusting the temperature of the air conditioner is preferred. Is your loved one able to decide which one to choose?

  4. Communicate decision: Is your loved one able to communicate a decision either verbally or in written form?

    Example: When you ask your loved one whether to take coffee or tea for breakfast, is the person able to inform you what is preferred?

You, the caregiver, should be able to assess whether your loved one has the mental capacity to vote based on the above criteria.

WHO CAN ASSESS MENTAL CAPACITY?

Caregivers can make informal assessments of their loved ones’ capacity based on their daily routines (For example: getting dressed, deciding what to eat or drink, taking public transport with relative ease). They should also take note of how their loved ones’ conditions are changing over time, whether it is stable and how often does their mental capacity fluctuate, while gauging whether their loved ones will be able to vote during the election period.

If a caregiver is still unsure about the loved one’s ability to make important decisions, the person can seek a more formal assessment of the mental capacity with a registered medical practitioner or medical specialists in mental health.2

ARE THERE PENALTIES IF MY LOVED ONE IS UNABLE TO VOTE?

Poll cards will be mailed to all eligible voters ahead of the Polling Day. Poll cards are issued to persons who are qualified to vote during an election.

If a caregiver determines that their loved one is not able to vote during an election due to either a lack of mental capacity during that period, or due to illnesses or other valid reasons, they do not have to arrange for their loved one to vote on Polling Day. No penalties would be imposed and the name of the person living with dementia will be removed from the Registers of Electors after the election.

Caregivers should also check their loved ones’ eligibility to vote by the following methods:

  • Access the person’s SingPass account to check with the Registers of Electors
  • Visit the Elections Department Singapore’s website under Voter Services using SingPass

Caregivers who wish to restore their loved ones’ names on the Register of Electors can visit Voter Services at the Elections Department of Singapore website to do so. SingPass access will be required, and caregivers would be asked to provide a valid reason for the restoration. Alternatively, caregivers can get in-person, over-the-counter support at any community club or the Elections Department. Caregivers who are planning for name restoration are encouraged to do so ahead of time as this can no longer be done once a Writ for an election has been issued.

Pre-polling Preparation

With proper planning, an election can be an opportunity for meaningful interaction within the family. Some suggestions for caregivers to prepare their loved ones for the Polling Day.

Stay Informed

Learn about the candidates and the election process. Official news and government websites are reliable sources of information.

Plan

Familiarise yourself with the polling process in your area. Some pre-planning includes:


Poll Cards

Poll cards are mailed to your loved one’s registered residential address, which is the address on their National Registration Identity Card (NRIC), within two to three working days after the Nomination Day. The poll card is a document that must be presented on the Polling Day. If your loved one living with dementia does not receive a poll card after the Nomination Day, you may seek assistance either online at Voter Services or at the Elections Department.


Designated Polling Stations

Poll cards will list the address of the designated polling station assigned to your loved one. It is advisable to find out ahead of time if there are any available dementia-, disability- or senior-friendly assistance provided, such as:

  • Special priority lanes and drop-off points for voters with physical disabilities
  • Senior friendly time slots, the poll card may indicate a suggested time band, outside of these time bands, you may request for your loved one to receive priority support from the election officials
  • Wheelchair accessibility and barrier-free zones for persons with mobility challenges

The polling procedure may change with each election and the Elections Department will publish updated notices closer to the Polling Day. Caregivers are requested to frequently check the Resources on Elections Department Singapore for the latest information.

Elections Department Support for Seniors

Assistance to Senior Voters and Persons with Special Needs
Source: Elections Department Singapore

This video briefly describes the various facilities available for senior voters and persons with special needs at the polling station.  

Discuss and Share

Share with your loved ones about the upcoming election.

 

1. Information about the Candidates

Discuss the candidates’ backgrounds and achievements with your loved one living with dementia and give them time to form their own opinions. The conversation should be clear and unbiased, and caregivers can use visual aids such as photos and news clippings or auditory aids like videos and podcasts to facilitate the discussion.

Find helpful tips on communicating effectively with your loved one living with dementia here.

 

2. What to expect during the polling process

Explain the polling process to your loved one.

Voting for Seniors This Election 2020
Source: Agency for Integrated Care

This video briefly describes the polling process for senior voters for the election in 2020. Many of the processes stay the same. Caregivers are advised to frequently check the Resources on Elections Department Singapore’s website for the latest advisory.

CAN A CAREGIVER ACCOMPANY THEIR LOVED ONE AT THE POLLING BOOTH?

Voting is secret and hence will need to be performed personally. According to the Elections Department, caregivers will not be able to accompany their loved ones at the polling booth or perform this task on their behalf. Caregivers can instead seek assistance from the Elections Officials at the polling station. These Election Officials are sworn under oath to keep the choice of the voter secret and will support to explain and mark the ballot paper in the manner directed by the voter to ensure the integrity of the vote. The Election Official will also accompany the voter to the exit area where caregivers can wait for their loved ones.

3. Discuss the plans for Polling Day

It is recommended for your loved one living with dementia to be accompanied. Caregivers can also take this opportunity to plan for the day such as date, time, transportation arrangements and who will be accompanying them to the polling station. Also include other plans such as a meal or other leisure activities to make the day more eventful.

Here are some activities you could plan with your loved one: 

(Photo Credit: Straits Times)

On the Polling Day

Before Arriving at the Polling Station:

  • Check in on how your loved one living with dementia is feeling. If the person feels nervous or anxious, you can try to create a relaxing environment by playing favourite songs or relaxing music before leaving the house.
  • Briefly run through the plan for the day and ensure your loved one carries the NRIC and poll card before leaving the house.
  • Ensure your loved one is accompanied and supported throughout this process.

Arriving at the Polling Station:

  • Arrive early and, as best as possible, choose off peak timings if your loved one is easily triggered by as long queues and crowds.
  • Where needed, seek assistance from Elections Officials to place your loved one in the priority queue or if your loved one requires any additional form of assistance.
  • If your loved one is a member of CARA, you may present the Elections Official your loved one’s CARA membership card should additional verification be needed.
  • Assure your loved one before passing them to the Elections Official and inform them of where you will be waiting. You can make your way to the exit area and wait for your loved one there.

The Elections Department Singapore offers rich resources on the voting process and how to place voters’ ballots. Caregivers can also contact the Elections Department at 1800-CALL-ELD (1800-225-5353) if you have more questions regarding the voting process.    

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Read Next

  1. 1,2 Office of Public Guardian (Oct 2016), Code of Practice Mental Capacity Act (Chapter 177A), p15,21. https://www.msf.gov.sg/docs/default-source/opg/code_of_practice_eng_oct16.pdf
  2. https://dementia.org.sg/2020/06/26/general-election-2020-dementia-voters/
  3. Elections Department Singapore: https://www.eld.gov.sg

Was this article helpful?

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Downloadable Resources

The following material contains bite-sized information about dementia. To download or print it, simply click the image. You may also select the language of the material by clicking the “Select Language” button.

Downloadable Resources

The following material contains bite-sized information about dementia. To download or print it, simply click the image. You may also select the language of the material by clicking the “Select Language” button.

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