Demand for geriatric care (the elderly) has grown dramatically since early March last year due to the country’s first closure. Care services for the elderly and nursing homes had to fill the gap that adult children had difficulty meeting.
This was especially important as the latter juggled WFH and cared for other family members, such as their own young children. To understand the situation, I spoke to 4 elderly care providers to learn more about their experiences over the past year.
Working with restrictions
All of our interviewees reported a similar increase in demands for their services, even up to 150% for Tribute. Therefore, the company had to increase its workforce by hiring more health workers and obtaining movement permits to care for the elderly in their homes.
Because Oretaha’s service required him to escort seniors from home to other places, he incorporated volunteers and assigned them to clients in his own districts to respect travel restrictions.
In addition to accompanying seniors to the doctor’s appointments, Oretha reported that clients who felt alone while at home also invited helpers to their home. That was just so they could eat and chat together.
The CARE caretaker quickly isolated residents at his residence, The Mansion. To help them achieve the social solution, caregivers would help them with video calls so they could connect virtually with friends and family.
Accommodation was also provided to employees inside the mansion to reduce unnecessary public exposure and keep everyone safe.
My Aged Care restricted family visits by creating time slots for visitors to minimize the risk of cross-contamination from different households.
To ensure that the virus did not spread from caregivers to their senior clients, all employees and volunteers at the four senior services companies were equipped with the necessary masks, gloves and hand sanitizers.
But with the utmost caution, there have been calls coming
Before My Aged Care accepted elderly people into their nursing facility, they first had to test negative for COVID-19. However, because family members could still visit the home, residents were exposed to close contact.
“We were surprised, but the first thing we did was take the rapid test (RTK) of this resident and the staff who attended to them. Then they isolated themselves while we waited for their results, ”said Mr Goh.
A feeling of fear affected the home caregivers while they waited for the test results. Having heard of nursing homes in Italy, where nearly half of residents died due to the internal spread of the virus, it was a morbid path to the spiral.
“But the most important thing was that we had to keep calm because we also have to take care of the other residents,” Goh said, appreciating that the results were negative in the end.
Tribute made her nurses and therapists adapt to PPE during her clients ’home treatments. Despite these measures, they struggled with a client whose family member had tested positive, while other family members were already showing signs of symptoms.
“We only found out when our care professional came home and we felt something was wrong, given the atmosphere at home and the behavior of the family members,” the team said. Upon reporting this case, the care professional immediately underwent a swab test, while the family was advised to stop appointments until the end of the quarantine period.
“We struggle with families who hide the truth for fear of being stigmatized and not receiving the care of their loved ones by our nurses,” they shared, stressing the high level of responsibility they had to maintain to keep everyone within their own team and other secure customers.
Distinguish noise from facts
Another struggle these caregivers faced was educating their clients about the dangers of COVID-19 and ever-changing PCOS in the country. Most older people were confused and frustrated as they were stopped from exercising their daily routines.
Nor did it help when they read the many fake stories spread through Whatsapp. Prone to believe them, it was a challenge for Oretha and the Tribute staff and my old caregiver who had to help them distinguish noise from facts.
“Some elderly people are no longer lucid, they suffer from dementia and senility. For these, not much can be done. So we are the ones who have to take care of them and we also keep them safe, ”Goh explained.
Fortunately, Oretha added that now older people are much more aware of what can and cannot be done under the country’s PCOS. “They are better at using MySejahtera and try their best to adhere to PCOS,” the proud caregiver shared. He added that most of his customers were also happy to get vaccinated, where his team will accompany them throughout the process, a service that Homage also offers.
As for the residences, the CARE concierge managed to arrange appointments with KKM to vaccinate the elderly directly in the same facility. My Aged Care said they are also working to get this deal.
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Caregiver exhaustion is not often talked about, and these unprecedented times can also affect them. At Homage, the team with the most workloads and longest hours has to juggle tasks quickly and has reduced its own quality time with loved ones.
Some of the staff at My Aged Care, made up of Sabeans and Filipinos, have not seen their own relatives for more than a year. While they understand their responsibility in caring for one of the most vulnerable groups in COVID-19, they also put themselves at risk. Martin Yap shared that the CARE concierge team was facing the same thing, which makes it even more important that they support each other while living at The Mansion.
“Mindfulness has to start somewhere and we will always advise the team to shut down at a certain time and look at each other,” the Homage team added, a feeling shared among the other services.
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Featured Image Credit: CARE Concierge