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Unsung heroes: How professional caregivers are adapting to the pandemic

In a previous article, we interviewed three caregivers to know more about the challenges they faced during the pandemic. Their responses shed plenty of light on the lesser-seen side of caregiving during such a crisis. 

Recently, Play Huahee had the opportunity to interview a Homage Home Care Pro for her thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How has the pandemic affected the caregiving landscape?

Christina Quah, 47, recounts her experiences with caring for dementia patients during the pandemic. She has been a Homage Care Pro since 2018. She said that her patients are not used to seeing her with a mask, and sometimes have problems identifying her. “I recall there was a senior who took some time to realise and was addressing me by another name. The elderly lady also refused to allow me to assist with her toileting needs as she was uncomfortable having a ‘stranger’ assisting her.”

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On the other hand however, it also means that families are now more involved with their loved ones. “With family members working from home during this Circuit Breaker period, they are able to witness first-hand how care is delivered for their loved ones and learn from it.”

There is also more time to discuss and share more about the care plan for their loved one after visits. 

Adapting to the situation

With the pandemic, caregiving has become even more vital, providing much-needed aid to the sick or those at risk, especially the elderly. It is also considered an essential service. 

Care professionals have stepped up to provide care to these more vulnerable members of our community, indirectly supporting nationwide COVID-19 response efforts by allowing healthcare institutions to focus on addressing the pandemic.

As nursing homes  begin to discharge residents to reduce the likelihood of transmission, Homage care professionals have helped ensure care continuity for these seniors at home.

What is the Homage Care Pro Fund?

Recently, Homage initiated the Homage Care Pro Fund scheme to provide physical and financial support to employed health professionals, both certified nurses and caregivers during the pandemic. 

Operating in both Singapore and Malaysia, Homage is an award-winning personal care solution that cares for the elderly. 

In recognition of their tireless efforts, the Homage Care Pro Fund aims to raise a minimum of SGD $30,000 at the end of May 2020 as a gesture of appreciation for the Homage care professionals. The fund was also accepting voluntary donations from Homage’s partners, investors, users and the general public to achieve its target amount.

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“With this pandemic, some care visits which involve going out of home and less urgent care needs are also paused as seniors are encouraged to be homebound to reduce risk of infection and community spread,” said Christina. “Naturally, this has had an impact on my income, and I’m grateful to Homage for the Care Pro Fund initiative.”

The proceeds earned from the fundraiser will go to caregivers to support their income. It will also be used to procure more personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, gloves, eye protection and gown, ensuring their safety and limit the risk of infection. Christina now can save on purchasing PPE as they are provided free of charge with this programme. 

A greater demand for caregiving

The evolving COVID-19 situation and the resulting circuit breaker measures have led to a significant drop in urban mobility. Seniors are remaining homebound to limit exposure risk, resulting in an increase in demand for home nursing services and assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL). 

How will caregiving change after the pandemic ends?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made families more concerned about who is coming into their homes. This extends to us, Homage Care Professionals when we visit the homes to deliver care to their loved one,” said Christina. “Families are naturally concerned where I have been, who I have previously cared for and what precautions I am taking to ensure the safety of their loved one,” added Christina.

Christina has taken up changing her clothes and carrying out the 7-step hand washing whenever she visits the home of her care recipient, along with wearing a mask. 

The COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the importance of collaboration. Partnerships between healthcare organisations, both public and private, is essential in establishing a network for care support that builds upon our individual strengths, so as to ensure care continuity for families and the more vulnerable in our community.

How else can the public help?

Besides monetary support, members of the public can help support care professionals by sharing the good work that care professionals have been doing during this challenging period and the initiatives which can help to support them better.

“We can help seniors who are living alone with their grocery shopping or have check-in visits to ensure their health is all right and to keep loneliness at bay,” said Christina. “Another point will be to educate them on COVID-19, so that they will not feel frustrated and alone.”

Trained nurses currently out of the workforce can help efforts immensely by putting their knowledge to good use. Flexible work arrangements will also allow individuals to contribute as much as they are able, supporting fellow healthcare professionals.

Family caregivers should pay special attention to ensure their loved one remains healthy and active in both mind and body. This can include setting a regular exercise routine or engaging in hobbies and interactive games.

For families living apart, they can maintain social connections by tapping on technology to meet and spend quality time together.

“To fellow caregivers, while you are caring for another, remember to have enough rest and stay safe. If you need help, professional care support remains available during this Circuit Breaker period,” said Christina. “Together, let’s persevere and  we can definitely overcome this pandemic. In the meantime, focus our time and effort on those who really matter and give them your tender loving care.”

For more information, visit Homage’s official website to learn more about its Pro Fund. 

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