Caregivers & Incontinence in Asia

What do Spice Islands have to do with caregiving of the elderly and incontinence?

As a backdrop, caregivers are a special breed of women from the Spice Islands who travel to distant lands in search of a livelihood to support their families back home. These women are often uneducated, poor, and economically living below the poverty line. In recent travels to Asia, I found common place to see and hear of large migrations of women travelling from the Spice Islands, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar(Burma) Vietnam, and Cambodia to neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and as far away as Middle Eastern countries.

Caregiver services are brokered through agents who take a large percentage of money from more affluent families procuring “maid services” in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These women migrants become caregivers, babysitters, housemaids, cooks, and companions for the elderly.

The pool of migrant workers provide an invaluable source of help for the elderly from cooking, housekeeping, companionship, laundry, shopping, and more importantly, taking care of the elderly’s emotional and physical needs. Emotional needs of the elderly can be from daily mood swings, depressions, uncooperative behavior, loneliness, lack of companionships, love, dependence, and fear of new places. Physical needs for elderly are comprehensive and around the clock. Caregivers take care of incontinence needs, bathing, feeding, wheelchair mobility, medications, doctors’ visits, and personal grooming.

Some of these women caregivers leave their homes for as long as 10-20 years at a time with occasional paid home visits. The survivorship instincts are strong and drive them to cross the seas in search of something better both for themselves and for their families.

In comparison to caregiving services in the United States, the hours and pay of service providers are regulated by homecare franchised agencies. The American caregivers applicants are often screened for background security checks. Unlike their American counterparts, Asian brokers who source for caregivers to provide personal services are not regulated and are not screened for background checks. The contracts for the personal services generally last between for 3-5 years. Because of the nature of sourcing, the elderly patients often do not know who they are getting and the quality of caregiving they can expect to receive. Worse still, refunds are almost unheard of!

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