Domestic Helpers Taking Care of Elderly
Since the elderly care service in Hong Kong is not good, a lot of people would rather let their aged parents stay with them or stay alone. In that case, especially when there are only the elderly in the house for most of the day, people tend to opt for hiring a full-time, live-in domestic worker. However, a lot of complications can arise from this!
Hiring a domestic helper to take care of elderly is a tricky one. Some domestic helpers might like it because it’s a relatively easier, and physically less demanding task, on the other hand, some might dislike it because they are seldom able to develop a bond with the elderly, and the elderly tend to treat the domestic helpers like servants. Also, you will most likely only be able to pick from Indonesian domestic workers, because they are trained in Cantonese. Even so, if your elderly (especially male) might need someone to accompany him/her in the toilet and while taking bath, you need to ask the domestic helper whether it is fine with her, because due to religious restrictions, some domestic helpers might not be willing to do it.
You should pay attention to her job experiences when you are picking the right domestic helper. Has she taken care of elderly people before? Even so, her previous job duties might be very different from what you need. The previous elderly person she has taken care of might need to be moved around in wheelchair and like going out, but your aged mother might have Dementia and only stay at home. In this case, your domestic helper’s previous experience would not help a lot. You will need to train her in the first few months of employment. Therefore, the domestic helper’s personal qualities are actually more important than her skills. This can be found out through interviews and contacting her previous employer. During the interview, observe whether she is willing to take care of the elderly and whether she is patient and empathetic. You can suggest some scenarios that can happen while taking care of the elderly and ask her what she would do. Her answers do not have to be perfect because she is not a medical professional, but in her answers, you can see whether she has common sense and whether she is good at improvising. You should also ask her previous employer about her work performance.
Finally, invite her home for a try-out. The elderly person’s reaction is the most important thing you should look for. Some elderly might dislike having an outsider and a foreigner in the house, and some elderly might not be able to understand the domestic helper’s Cantonese. After the domestic helper has left, you can ask the elderly person what he/she thinks about her. Even though you know that his/her negative opinion of her is due to prejudice, still do not hire the domestic helper. She might be doing an amazing job, but as long as the elderly person does not like her, they still will not get along.
Communicating with the elderly and the domestic helper
You need to communicate with both the elderly and the domestic helper about your expectations. To the elderly, you might need to change some of their perceptions about domestic workers. Due to how it is in the past, the elderly might treat the domestic helper like a “mui-tsai”, which means a young female servant. Tell him/her how domestic helper is different from a “mui-tsai” and what her job duties include and do not include. For example, the elderly cannot ask her to give them massages and wash their feet unless it is for medical reasons. Also, kindly ask them to respect the domestic helper’s culture and religion.
To the domestic helper, some elderly people might have taboos and things they are sensitive about, inform the domestic helper about them so she could avoid them. Also, the elderly might have strange habits that are not exactly harmful, such as they might like to keep a tea cup on the table at all times. You can inform your domestic helper about this so she would not need to try to clean it up every time.
First aid skills and emergency situations
Since your domestic helper’s main duty is to take care of elderly, it might be good to send her to a first aid course. When emergencies happen, such as when the elderly person chokes or is bleeding a lot, your domestic helper can immediately provide care for the elderly person before the ambulance arrives. After attending such a course, she will get a first-aid certificate certifying that she has the skills. When interviewing a new domestic helper, you may ask her if she has such certifications, and if she is able to show you the training certificate.
You should also tell your domestic helper where to go when emergencies happen. If it is not serious, tell her that she can just call you, but when something serious happens, like when the elderly person falls down or faints, ask her to call the emergency hotline 999 immediately, then call you afterwards. Tell her the numbers and addresses of the nearest hospital, emergency service and the doctor the elderly person goes to. Write them down on a piece of paper and put it somewhere obvious in the house so she would not have to look for them when emergencies happen.
Can my parents’ domestic helper clean my flat from time to time?
In Hong Kong, it is required by law that a foreign domestic helper works only for her employer. If your parents don’t live under your roof, you can’t ask their domestic helper to come to your place every week to do the cleaning, even if she agrees to do it. As an employer, your parents are responsible for not asking her to perform duties illegally.