Karen Chong was once part of the Republic of Singapore Air Force. A mother of 4, she made the decision to leave the workforce so as to care for her kids full-time. For the past 20 years, she has cared for her four sons and many from her extended family. Finally in August 2016, Karen decided that her kids were independent enough – signalling the time for her to rejoin the workforce. It was time.
At 47 years old, she started as a Freelance Care Professional with Homage, assisting care recipients with their activities of daily living from the comfort of their own homes. These include mobility assistance, transfers to companionship, and personal hygiene depending on the recipient’s health conditions and needs. It was a fulfilling job. Not easy, but meaningful.
“I’ve gained the most knowledge from seniors I cared for, as they reminisce about the events of Singapore through years of 1940 to 1960. Well, these are stories I doubt I can get from history textbooks! The elderly have also taught me tips and tricks in other areas like cooking, gardening and more!” Karen shared fondly.
There Must be Challenges?
Just like any job, being a Care Professional comes with its unique challenges as well. One of the main challenges for Karen is managing the care for seniors with dementia. Within a 3-hour care session, these seniors’ moods and behaviors can shift. “We have to make it a point to constantly observe and respond to these seniors accordingly,” she added.
Simple tasks where Care Professionals have to transfer the Care Recipients require great care. Bringing a senior from the washroom to their bedroom is one task that Karen is especially careful with. Care Professionals need to be extra alert and attentive.
Since joining in 2016, Karen has overcome many challenges. This has brought about a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that cannot be had in other vocations. Being a part of making someone’s life happier and more comfortable has been a huge factor for Karen, who wants to continue her role as a Care Professional for as long as possible. “However, I know I won’t be able to do this forever, as there will come a time when I may not be mobile and strong enough for this role,” she said. But until then, she seeks constant improvement to how she carries out her work daily! She makes it a point to self reflect at the end of her workday, to identify specific things that she can improve on. It’s inspiring to hear Karen share this. How many of us do the same?
On Training and Upskilling
Upskilling has proven to be more than a buzzword to Karen. It has been essential in her caregiving journey in equipping her with a substantial amount of basic knowledge and understanding that she needs to provide the best care possible.
Recently, she upgraded her caregiving skills through courses provided by The Homage Academy – an online e-learning resource with curated courses on caregiving and common medical conditions. She found them easy to comprehend. “Homage provided me knowledge on the different medical conditions and how they can influence the care I provide. Useful whenever I prepare for a care session with seniors having similar medical conditions!”
Karen is part of the Homage Care Pro Scholarship Training Program, which provides Care Professionals with upskilling opportunities. Through the program, she attended a four-day course “Work with clients with dementia” conducted by Alzheimer’s Disease Association. She attended classroom-based experiential learning activities and underwent competency-based assessments to handle situations when supporting people living with dementia. Karen also had the chance to re-enact real life scenarios in class.
Learning is A Lifelong Journey
Indeed, for 51-year-old Karen, upskilling is not just a buzzword.
Over the years, the Labour Movement has been supporting mature workers in upskilling and reskilling. Union Training Assistance Program (UTAP) is a training benefit for NTUC members to defray their cost of training. This benefit is to encourage more NTUC members to go for skills upgrading. The enhanced UTAP also offers extra training support to members aged 40 and above.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has also been calling for increases to CPF contribution rates for senior workers to take effect from Jan 1 2022 as planned. And for the Government to go through plans to raise the statutory retirement age from 62 to 63, and the re-employment age ceiling from 67 to 68. On 4th March 2021, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced that the raising of the statutory retirement age to 63 and the re-employment age to 68 will go ahead as planned on July 1 next year.
Going ahead with raising the ages as planned will definitely provide older workers with the choice to work longer and help them build up more savings!