IT’S quite common for many of us who have an ailing loved one to hire a helper. This helper would usually be a woman between the ages of 25 and 55. Some people hire male helpers to help with their male relatives who need round-the-clock assistance.
When you allow someone into your home to do that, you are entrusting that person with the welfare and safety of your loved one. The person would also have free access to almost every part of your home while you’re out of the house. You hope that he or she has integrity that’s worthy of your trust.
You’d also like to think that this person is trained on the basics. However, we all have our own standards and baselines. So we have to see for ourselves what she is capable of, what she can do, and if necessary, to train her into our way of doing things.
Is the person there to care for your newborn, children, parents, anyone with special needs, ailing elderly, or all of the above? Would there be more than one person in her care? What are her duties? If you had a list of priorities for her, what would it be? If you had more than one helper, would you divide their work so that each could perform their duties better?
When we employed a helper, our priority was for her to take care of our son with special needs. Anything and everything to do with Omar, our son, was her priority — from his safety and hygiene to his well-being. Cleaning the house came next. Cooking is my domain although she does it when I’m not there.
She goes where Omar goes, from hospitals for his check-ups, to administering his medications, and to holidays with us. She became another one of his caregivers. She fills in for me during my absence. My helper essentially has become the person that I trust my precious children and my home to, a personal assistant of sorts.
Of course, ideally, I’d love it if she could manage all the mundane things in my life so that I’m freed from those chores to reach for and achieve my higher goals in life. It’d be nice to relinquish responsibilities and just indulge in whatever I fancy. Alas, life isn’t always like that. Besides, one should always keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on at home and be involved in caring for, and managing, the family.
We believe in prevention so we always tell her to keep an eye out for certain things. For example, not to use an excessive amount of soap when bathing the children, and sluicing off soap residues from the bathroom floor each time after the children bathe.
She watches out for excessive sneezing or coughing and informs me if anything is amiss. She has also learnt what to do in emergencies. She may not know how to do CPR, but she knows who to call and in what order. She has all the important numbers.
THE SECOND TIER
What happens when I’m not around? I have my own support group who’ll step in on my behalf, including those days when she’s unwell. I make sure that she gets the medical attention she needs.
To prepare for this eventuality, you’d need to go through a list of possibilities and what’s required to tackle the problems. Make several copies of her passport and work permit for her and for your support team. In case of an emergency, she’d have the necessary documents. You wouldn’t want the complications that come with her not having her documents.
Next, leave some money with her and/or with your support team. You need to make payments for such help. You might have other cashless alternatives that you could arrange for.
If she has a smartphone and knows how to use the apps, you could set up for transport using Uber or Grab. Some people have allowed their maids to obtain a driver’s licence to take family members to wherever they need to go.
This is the second tier of caregivers in your family — when your maid is given the authority to act on your behalf in certain circumstances. This may sound like a crazy idea. Maybe it is for some. Maybe when you’ve found someone with sterling qualities that you could trust, you’ll be able to do this.
There may be that one person who’s ever so quick to cheat you; but there are so many others with hearts of gold too. It doesn’t always have to be an outsider who’s the villain. Sometimes, there can be a rotten apple in the family too.
Trust has to be a two-way street. When you bring someone into your home to care for your loved one, you’ve already entrusted her with your most precious assets. If you can’t trust that person, she shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang.She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.