VWO, Aware join hands to train needy in eldercare

Madam Nur Fadzelah Sapullah, a volunteer at Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), demonstrates how to carry an elderly patient.
Madam Nur Fadzelah Sapullah, a volunteer at Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), demonstrates how to carry an elderly patient.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is a boon for low-income women and, at the same time, fulfils need for eldercare manpower

On one side, low-income women looking for jobs. On the other, an ageing population in need of care.

Now, an effort is under way to match both camps. Two organisations here have banded together to train low-income women for jobs in eldercare.

The aim is to train, in two years, 100 women from families with a per capita income of less than $400 a month, and connect them with employers.

Already, pilot runs have helped place three women in such jobs.

The effort is driven by voluntary welfare organisation Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), which helps women with financial challenges, and the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

SHOWING THEM THE REALITY

Many people plunge into eldercare, take courses and are placed in jobs, but find that they are mismatched. So we needed to show what eldercare is about. This makes them think about whether eldercare is what they really want to do.

MR RAYMOND LAI, training and development manager at iCare Life, on why the eldercare training includes an introductory workshop.

DOT founder and executive director Carrie Tan said the idea came about because of Singapore's need for manpower in the eldercare industry. By 2030, there will be over 900,000 Singaporeans aged above 65. About one in three will need eldercare services.

"We also know that women here have the heart and the aptitude. So we want to bridge the gap in skills and opportunities that are needed for them to enter the industry," said Ms Tan.

Out of the pilot batch of 12 women who were trained early last year by iCare Life, a training provider whose course is approved by the Agency for Integrated Care, one has found employment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

And that was before DOT and Aware pushed for more partnerships, especially with employers, so they can secure job interviews for the women trained by iCare Life.

Now, NTUC Health and Econ Healthcare - both run nursing homes and day activity centres for the elderly - and social enterprise Homage have come on board to provide jobs for the trained women.

FULFILLING PURSUIT

The work may be trying and emotional, but the women have found it very satisfying. Being able to care for others has helped them gain dignity because they have become a figure of strength for others.

MS CARRIE TAN, founder and executive director of Daughters of Tomorrow, on the women who have finished their training.

Since December, bank JP Morgan has been funding the programme - this includes paying the women's course fees. Since then, six women have attended the iCare Life course and two of them have found jobs.

The eldercare training comes in two parts: a three-hour community eldercare workshop which gives an overview of the industry, and a seven-hour caregivers' training programme which teaches participants how to perform caregiving tasks.

Mr Raymond Lai, training and development manager at iCare Life, said the introductory course is important. "Many people plunge into eldercare, take courses and are placed in jobs, but find that they are mismatched. So we needed to show what eldercare is about," said Mr Lai.

For example, the workshop looks at communication issues one might have with a dementia patient, and how a caregiver might have to change diapers and wash the elderly. "This makes them think about whether eldercare is what they really want to do," he said.

If so, they continue with the caregiver training programme which includes 51/2 hours of online learning, followed by a seven-hour course conducted on a Sunday.

There, participants learn how to shower, feed and dress an elderly person. They are also taught about mobility aids and home safety, as well as how to transfer an elderly person from a bed to a wheelchair.

They learn that a person who has just had a stroke should use a walking frame instead of a walking stick because a frame is more stable. And if a person uses dentures, his toothpaste should not contain excessive fluoride because it can corrode the dentures.

Factoring in those who might drop out after the introductory workshop, DOT and Aware are targeting to get 80 of their low-income beneficiaries to go for training each year.

Ms Tan said of the women who have completed the course: "The work may be trying and emotional, but the women have found it very satisfying. Being able to care for others has helped them gain dignity because they have become a figure of strength for others."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'VWO, Aware join hands to train needy in eldercare'. Print Edition | Subscribe