It is saddening that the most important job in the world is the one that few prefer.
The Elder Care industry is known for its shortage of workers. This is no wonder. In Singapore, this issue is amassed with a never-ending chase for growth; and the fact is that time does not stop for anyone – even the baby boomers. The generation who have helped built our nation through good, hard work.
Instead of wagging our fingers at those who leave their parents in an old aged home, we can also choose to look through the lens of caregiving in the modern world.
“Old folks are not easy to handle. You need to know how to manage those who are bad-tempered,” said Mdm Tio, a Senior Care Aide at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home.
For those living with elderly parents, caregiving can be a hidden grievance. It is a stigma to whine about it. Unlike the past, today’s men and women contribute to the household by putting in long hours of work. Despite this, the expectations of caregiving are commonplace to many Asian families. They are known as the “sandwiched generation.” These are parents who work to put food on the table, children in school and elderly parents at ease.
When push comes to shove, the sandwiched generation may resort to the painful decision of seeking caregiving assistance.
AGB’s hiring partner, Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home (LAMH), started out in the mid-1960s, where the late Mdm Lee opened her home (at that time, a kampung) to retired Samsui women and Amahs. She was a nurse who worked at Singapore General Hospital in the 1930s. Today, her two grandsons continue to practice her compassion by serving the sandwiched generation and taking LAMH to new heights.
“I don’t like staying at home. I want to continue to look after others whether it is the elderly or young children,” said Mary, also a Senior Care Aide at LAMH.
Mdm Tio and Mary are fresh hires, who both felt a connection to elder care during a visit to LAMH as part of AGB’s career programme. They had joined the programme as a means to re-enter the workforce. At the age of 67 and 70, both ladies display composure and strength that will leave youths feeling slightly abashed.
“I learn how to present myself, how to communicate and how to be happy in a work environment,” said Mary about the career programme. A retired Insurance agent, Mary’s unbending diligence pushed her to enrol in the 8 days programme which followed with weekly visits to age-friendly companies.
When asked about their job satisfaction level, Mary gave an impressive 9/10 and Mdm Tio an 8/10.
So far, a day in the life of a Senior Care Aide involves feeding the residents, leading them around the home and engaging with them through conversations and even fun activities like song and dance. These ladies were even looking forward to their next in-house training session.
“Sometimes, you will encounter a resident who chooses who they want to interact with. I have bonded rather well with one of them, who prefers me to be seated next to her instead of anyone else,”
laughs Mdm Tio.
“Overall, I feel happy talking to the residents here. Knowing that I can help them feel more at ease has given me fulfilment.”
Agreeing with Mdm Tio, Mary chimed in, “I like seeing them smile and being happy. I also like to ‘disturb’ them by making them laugh. Whenever there are public programmes, I also enjoy dancing with them.”
LAMH's family spirit shines through its staff and on to the residents. Seeing our graduates as part of a dedicated team makes our hearts swell with pride. Learning that Mdm Tio and Mary as two hardworking individuals even before retirement, we realised that in some way, they, too, were once part of the sandwiched generation.
For them, stepping out of the rat race did not mean to stop at all. Instead, it was about breathing new life into their silver years by helping the less fortunate.
As for the sandwiched generation, we suspect that they can continue to hustle with a peace of mind, knowing that their parents are well taken care of at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home.
The Career Skills Training (CST) programme has helped to enable placements for more than 1,500 learners in the past 2 years. Learners go through an 8 day skills training before embarking on weekly journeys to visit different hiring partners. Through these age-friendly workshops and journeys, we hope to bridge the gap between the work force and our work ready seniors.
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