The demand for geriatric (elderly) care has increased dramatically since the beginning of March last year due to the country’s first lockdown. Elderly care services and nursing homes have had to fill the void that adult children have struggled to fill.
All the more so when the latter juggled between WFH and taking care of other family members, such as their own small children. To understand the situation, I spoke to 4 elderly carers to learn more about their experiences over the past year.
Working with limitations
All of our respondents reported a similar increase in demand for their services, up to 150% for Homage. As a result, the company had to increase its workforce by hiring more healthcare workers and obtaining movement permits to service seniors at home.
Since Oretha’s ministry required her to escort seniors from their homes to other locations, she brought volunteers on board and assigned them to clients in their own districts to help comply with travel restrictions.
Oretha meets her clients at home / Image credit: Oretha’s Senior Concierge Services
Oretha reported that customers who felt lonely at home not only accompany seniors to medical appointments, but also invite helpers to their homes. This was just so they could eat and talk together.
CARE Concierge quickly isolated the residents of their The Mansion nursing home. To help them find their social solution, caregivers supported them with video calls so they could continue to virtually connect with friends and family.
Accommodation has also been made available to staff in The Mansion itself to reduce unnecessary public exposure and to ensure everyone’s safety.
My Aged Care restricted family visits by opening appointment windows for visitors to minimize the risk of cross-contamination from different households.
To ensure that the virus is not passed on from caregivers to their elderly customers, all staff and volunteers from the 4 senior service companies have been provided with the necessary masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
But as careful as you can be, there have been close calls
Activities with the Elders / Photo Credit: My Aged Care
Before My Aged Care could accept seniors into their care facility, they first had to test negative for COVID-19. However, since family members could still visit the house, the residents were once exposed to close contact.
“We were shocked, but the first thing we did was the rapid test (RTK) for this resident and the staff who looked after them. They were then isolated while we waited for their results, ”said Mr Goh.
A feeling of fear plagued the caretakers while they waited for the test results. After hearing about nursing homes in Italy where nearly half of residents died from the internal spread of the virus, it was a morbid way to squirm.
“But the main thing was that we had to stay calm because we also have to take care of the other residents,” said Goh, grateful that the results were negative in the end.
Homage had their nurses and therapists put in PPE during their clients’ home treatments. Despite such measures, they struggled with a client whose family member tested positive while other family members were already showing signs of symptoms.
“We didn’t find out until our caregiver got home and felt that something was wrong with the atmosphere at home and the behavior of family members,” the team said. After this case was reported, the caregiver immediately underwent a swab test while the family was advised to suspend appointments until the end of the quarantine period.
“We struggle with families who are hiding the truth for fear of being stigmatized and not getting the care of their loved ones from our nurses,” they shared, stressing that they had to maintain a high level of responsibility to everyone in theirs keep your own team and other customers safe.
Distinguish the noise from the facts
Another struggle by these caregivers has been to educate their clients about the dangers of COVID-19 and the ever-changing SOPs in the country. Most seniors were confused and frustrated as they were prevented from doing their daily routines.
It didn’t help either when they read the many fake stories that were spread via Whatsapp. They were inclined to believe them and it was a challenge for Oretha and the Homage and My Aged Care staff to help them tell the noise from the facts.
“Some older people are no longer clear, suffer from dementia and senility. Not much can be done about them. Therefore we are the ones who have to take care of them and we are the ones who protect them, ”explained Mr. Goh.
Fortunately, Oretha added that the seniors are now much more aware of what can and cannot be done under the country’s SOPs. “You can use MySejahtera better and try to do your best to comply with the SOPs,” said the proud caregiver. She added that most of her clients were also quite excited to be vaccinated, where her team will be with them throughout the process, a service that is also offered by Homage.
Bring the seniors to their vaccinations / Photo credit: Homage
In the nursing homes, CARE Concierge was able to make appointments with the KKM to vaccinate the seniors themselves in the facility. My Aged Care announced that they too are working to get such a deal.
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Nursing burnout is not often discussed, and these unprecedented times can weigh on them too. At Homage, the team has to juggle quickly between tasks with increased workload and longer working hours and has reduced its own quality time with loved ones.
Some My Aged Care employees, comprised of Sabahans and Filipinos, haven’t seen their own family members in over a year. While they are aware of their responsibility to one of the most vulnerable groups from COVID-19, they are also putting themselves at risk. Martin Yap shared that the CARE Concierge team faced the same thing, which makes it all the more important that they support each other while they live at The Mansion.
“Mindfulness has to start somewhere and we will always advise the team to switch off and take care of each other at a certain time,” added the Homage team, an opinion shared by the other services.
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Highlighted image source: CARE Concierge