HONG KONG, June 2, 2015 – The latest unfortunate incident of the maltreatment of an eldercare home should force us to rethink our conventional approach of elderly care. We should focus more on professionalising aging-in-place instead of just relying on old-age-homes and domestic helpers.
Elderly people often have to wait for years before obtaining the so-called “subsidized beds” in old-age-homes. Many of them literally could not outlast the wait as more than 5,000 elderly people died while waiting to entre care-homes. With the aging population, this number is like to go up in the coming decade. There are high-end old-age-homes available to the privileged few as the monthly fees can often go above HK$30,000, effectively pricing the bulk of the senior population out of the picture.
In the last fiscal year, the government spent close to HK$6 billion on elderly services. While the Social Welfare Department funds numerous community home-care services throughout the territory, the service coverage for proper eldercare is far from ideal. For instance, some highly dependent elderly patients covered by the government-funded community home-care services on average receive only a few visits per weeks, leaving the bulk of the caregiving burden to the family members.
Families faced with this situation often resort to the only alternative – foreign domestic helpers. However, it is unfair to demand domestic helpers to perform the tasks of professional caregivers. Most domestic helpers in Hong Kong do not have professional training and lack years of actual clinical experience critical to providing holistic care to elderly patients. For instance, the ability to recognise the symptoms of strokes or heart attacks and handle emergencies with confidence cannot be achieved by a few days of so-called top-up training. It requires proper training and actual experience.
The key to viable long-term care lies in professionalising the home-care sector, by tapping into the surplus of overseas nurses and professional healthcare workers to take care of the elderly at their own homes. This model of long-term-care is already very well developed in other countries.
In Israel, the Long-Term Care Insurance Program “LTCIP” has been in place for almost three decades. There are 60,000 foreign caregivers working in Israeli households and the most common way to grow old in Israel is to have a foreign caregiver to live with the elderly person in the comfort of his or her home.
In fact, there are already overseas nurses working here in Hong Kong as professional live-in caregivers. Many experienced nurses are willing to work in cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong for a monthly salary of less than HK$6,000, making it affordable to most families.
For example, Dhammika, an experienced Sri Lankan nurse, came to Hong Kong early this year to work as a home caregiver. She has been providing live-in care for her dementia patient. Before Dhammika, the frail old lady had collapsed a few times at her flat, and the family decided that they needed a professional caregiver with CPR and first aid knowledge and proper dementia experience. Dhammika is only one of the growing number of overseas professional caregivers working in the city.
In light of the latest unfortunate incident with the eldercare home’s maltreatment of its residents, we should rethink our conventional approach towards elderly care. With the advent of professional caregivers, aging-in-place can finally become an affordable reality, giving our elderly the dignity they deserve.
About Active Global Specialised Caregivers
Established in Singapore in 2012, we are the leader in providing professional and affordable home care services to the elderly in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Our holistic caregiving plan ensures our clients receive the highest quality of care from our caregivers and thus reduce stress for the family.
Our caregivers are able to provide assistance to elderly patients with dementia/Alzheimer's, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, depression, Parkinson's, bed-bound and wheelchair patients, cancer patients and newborn babies. Besides providing assistance with activities of daily living, they know exactly what to do in case of heart attack, shock, choking, fall, stroke, burn, wound or poisoning. They are trained to administer First Aid/CPR. All our caregiving consultants and supervisors have degrees in nursing and have practiced as nurses, caregivers and educators.
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Hong Kong Branch Manager
Active Global Specialised Caregivers (Hong Kong) Pte Ltd
Tel: +852 3426 2909
(1) Number of elderly dying in Hong Kong while awaiting care home places soars, SCMP, November 20th, 2014
(2) 2015 - 16 Estimates of Expenditure under Social Welfare Department, Social Welfare Department
(3) Asiskovitch S., The Long-Term Care Insurance Program in Israel: solidarity with the elderly in a changing society, Isr J Health Policy Res. 2013 Jan 23;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/2045-4015-2-3.
(4) Jewish and Israel news, In Israel, seniors and foreign caretakers develop symbiotic relationships, 2014