The reported case, Maid pleads guilty to ill-treating bedridden boy (March 7), has sparked off questions not only about the ability of domestic workers to perform advanced care work, but also the multiple roles they are expected to perform, such as cleaning, cooking and doing the laundry.
It was reported that the boy has type one spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
Individuals affected by SMA require continual ventilation and oxygen support.
Children with SMA usually require ongoing care throughout their lives from a range of doctors and professional caregivers.
The daily care includes not only managing the ventilator and other equipment, but also being able to provide emergency medical care if the child experiences distress and, most importantly, the ability to recognise signs of distress.
The high degree of medical and technological expertise required by parents or caregivers can be a tremendous strain on the family.
The nature of such care goes beyond normal expectations of the family unit, and caregivers need extensive support from a rehabilitation team.
The inability to recruit qualified home nursing staff, a limited number of capable family caregivers, and delays in obtaining the appropriate equipment are some of the challenges families who care for a child with SMA may face.
The child's family and designated caregivers have to be involved in all aspects of the child's care. Ongoing coordination and communication between the medical and rehabilitation team is required.
Caregiving can be physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting.
Are we expecting too much of our domestic workers? What measures are in place to ensure that their physical and psychological well-being are not compromised?
Is the quality of care for the vulnerable being compromised without more resources from the Government to train these women?
The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics recognises the need for competency in caregiving skills and offers such programmes for domestic workers.
It is also important to recognise the difference between domestic work and caregiving.
Employers need to take responsibility for selecting the right person for the job.
The Government also needs to ensure that employers have access to affordable and quality caregivers.
Jacqueline Tan (Ms)
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics