Eldercare gets boost with specially trained foreign domestic workers

Care Academy managing director Satyaprakash Tiwari (centre) with scholarship recipients (from left) Cristina Ganancial Alvarez, Khin Nilar Win, Nwe Nwe Oo and Quinsay Cherry May Dalawis.
Care Academy managing director Satyaprakash Tiwari (centre) with scholarship recipients (from left) Cristina Ganancial Alvarez, Khin Nilar Win, Nwe Nwe Oo and Quinsay Cherry May Dalawis. PHOTO: MARCUS TAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - For Ms Cristina Ganancial Alvarez, having the right skills to care for the ones she affectionately calls "Po Po" and "Gong Gong" is topmost on her mind.

"If something happens or they fall down, I now know what to do," said Ms Ganancial, 41, on caring for her employer's parents.

"For example if they are breathless I need to ask them to breathe deeply and take their blood pressure, and call for an ambulance if necessary."

The Filipino domestic worker was one of 44 who graduated on Sunday (Dec 4) from a pioneering course in eldercare run by Care Academy, in partnership with the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast). She was also among the four scholarship recipients.

The Specialist Certificate in Homebased Eldercare equips them with specialised skills to care for the elderly.

Fast executive director William Chew said at the graduation ceremony at Fast's clubhouse in Bukit Merah that Ms Ganancial was awarded the scholarship because she placed the interests of her employer's family above herself.

"Her compassion for the family was very touching. Very few would tell the employer they wanted to care for their loved ones," he said.

The course, conducted by medical professionals at Care Academy, trains participants on skills like wound dressing, feeding, and communicating with non-verbal cues, such as eye contact and head nods to overcome language problems.

The course comprised 40 four-hour sessions held on Sundays since June 2016. Other eldercare courses are available for foreign domestic workers, such as those offered by the Agency for Integrated Care, but these last a few days at most.

Care Academy managing director Satyaprakash Tiwari said: "We've seen them growing...Some of them went to a nursing home, and were mistaken for nurses...that is the kind of skills we're very proud they've learnt."

The second edition of the course began in November with 30 trainees, and the third run will start in January 2016.

The total cost of the training is $520, but the participants in the last course only needed to foot $120 after subsidies. Scholarship recipients take the course free.

Singapore is one of the fastest-ageing societies in the world.

By 2030, one in four people in Singapore will be aged 65 and above, double the number now, and one in every three people here is projected to need some form of eldercare service.