Where is the supply of caregivers?
THERE is a demand for caregivers in the country. With the elderly population growing in size, we can no longer rely on family members, who themselves may be ageing, and helpers who have little or no training.
Norashikin Cheong Abdullah, head of Training and Quality Control at the Aged Care Group, says that we should see this as a career opportunity.
It is estimated that there will be 4.6 million Malaysians over the age of 60 by 2020, many of them will need some form of caregiving, especially those with medical conditions and illnesses.
“The caregiver situation in Malaysia is never viewed as an acute problem as most caregiving is provided by either a family member or a helper.
“As such, the quality of care provided is probably poor because most of these caregivers are not trained on how to provide safe care. They tend to apply care on a trial and error basis and sometimes use information sourced from the Internet. This may result in serious implications for the caregiver and care recipient.
“For example, handling and assisting in the daily activities of those with mobility issues requires special techniques. First, there is the technique of self-bracing, and knowing how to hold the care recipient before moving them. If not done correctly, it may induce muscle strains on the caregiver and there is always the risk of a fall for the care recipient,” explains Norashikin.
Currently there are not many trained caregivers in Malaysia. If a family can afford it, they may pay for the services of a registered nurse. According to Norashikin, even the care centres and nursing homes do not employ trained caregivers. Instead, very often, the care is provided by untrained foreign workers.
Not helping the situation is the fact that Malaysia does not have any registry for trained caregivers and there is no provision in any of the laws to say that caregivers must be trained, certified and licensed. This means that you don’t have to be a licensed and/or trained caregiver to provide this service.
Unfortunately, this is not a scenario that is peculiar to Malaysia. Most countries are in a similar situation, shares Norashikin.
“In other countries, they have more or less the same issues. The developed countries are aware of their ageing population and some have already created a caregivers’ industry and they even have structured training,” she explains.
She suggests that the public and private sectors work together to create job opportunities for caregivers. It should be lucrative, with good opportunities, benefits and a career path.
According to Norashikin, this would make the career more attractive to school leavers and those looking for a change in career. The US and Australia have already adopted such models.
Norashikin says that caregivers, regardless of whether they are family members or employed help, need some working knowledge of the care recipient’s care plan. Without any training, these caregivers may not be able to plan the elderly’s care effectively.
It is hoped that when the new Aged Healthcare Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament this year, comes into effect, all care and nursing homes will have trained nurses and caregivers.
“Then, the demand will increase. Right now, a lot of nursing homes just have foreign workers. These workers may claim to have experience taking care of the elderly, but we don’t know because there is no regulation yet, so we can’t check.
“We would also need a registry of caregivers so that those employing them in their homes have peace of mind, knowing they are legitimate. Hopefully the new Act will also address this,” says Norashikin.
The Ministry of Human Resources has various training courses for skilled workers under the Department of Skills Development. ACG hopes to eventually offer caregivers training as part of this programme, either on its own or as a joint venture with other companies or organisations.
The way forward
Norashikin believes that caregiving is a good way for young people and single mothers to earn an income. “It’s a good opportunity for single mothers to work as part-time caregivers. They can earn a bit of extra income in caregiving when the children go to school.
“Meanwhile, the younger generation can look at it as a job opportunity because there is a large and growing number of elderly. With the elderly, a lot of care is needed, so definitely there is a demand for caregivers,” says Norashikin.
She believes that those in their 20s can train for a caregiver’s job and start earning an income. Those who have the necessary entry requirements for further studies, can proceed to a diploma in nursing. On graduating, they would have an advantage over other new graduates as they would be registered nurses with experience.
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, by 2020, caregiver jobs will grow by 69% – much faster than the average job.
At a time when graduates are finding it hard to find jobs and some industries are seeing retrenchment, caregiving looks like a good career choice.
“Though a caregiver’s journey may be exhausting and full of sacrifices, it is a very rewarding career as it is a chance to make a difference in somebody else’s life,” sums up Norashikin.
* ACG is offering caregiving training for informal caregivers and helpers. Those interested can contact ACG to have a tailor-made programme for them and their elderly member of the family. The programme and care plan will cater to their individual needs.