Can maids cope with the added burden of being a caregiver too?

The reports of domestic helpers inflicting injuries on elderly members in their care is both disturbing and distressing to the families concerned (New laws must protect vulnerable elderly too; Sept 12).

However, rather than focusing on strengthening the Penal Code to deal with such abuse, perhaps we should look at the underlying issues giving rise to it.

Most domestic helpers have very rudimentary training in caregiving skills. This, coupled with the toil of being responsible for the care of a frail elderly member, puts undue pressure on them.

We cannot ignore the fact that caregiver burnout also affects domestic helpers with poor coping mechanisms.

This can lead to a breaking point, with the tragic consequence of ventilating their frustrations through physical violence.

Many of us would have faced similar situations of relying on domestic helpers to step up and shoulder daunting caregiving tasks such as transferring, tube feeding, giving medication and others with little lead time.

The learning curve to master such skills within a short period is immensely steep for domestic helpers.

We need to acknowledge the invaluable support domestic helpers can give to families who are looking after their frail or sick relatives and, rather than threaten more severe punitive laws, we should reframe the discussion to ask ourselves: Are our domestic helpers really suited to be both a housekeeper and a caregiver?

We need to be realistic.

Not everyone has the temperament to be a caregiver. It requires patience, resilience and a willing heart.

It is only when we look after our domestic helpers and treat them like our extended family members will they look upon our family members like their own.

Daniel Tan (Dr)
Vice-President
Caregiving Welfare Association