Hi, my name is Asy’ari. Most of my friends, colleagues, and people who know me, call me Ash.
I’d been living with my two elderly aunts for a little over a decade. They are single and do not have their own children. My aunts are the reason why I decided on a career in caregiving.
I’ve closely observed my aunts ageing as they tried to make sense of the changes and challenges they’ve had to face as they grew older. This, coupled with their pre-existing medical conditions, has made them more physically vulnerable to illnesses.
I was in charge of ferrying both of them for their doctor’s appointments and being their interpreter when they interacted with medical professionals. There were several experiences I had while taking care of them that made me realise the importance of care professionals and respite care.
Once my aunt fell and broke her femur resulting in her requiring 24×7 support for a long time. I was by her bedside at the hospital daily, almost to the point of falling sick myself. That is when as a caregiver myself, I understood the invaluable support that care professionals offer.
Men can be caregivers too
People think that caregiving work is a woman’s job. While this is unfortunately a reality across different societies around the world, and predominantly also in Singapore, it does come as a surprise to many people when they discover that there are men like me who find a lot of fulfillment in caregiving.
As men, we sometimes have the advantage of physical strength, and male caregivers are in high demand.
I first joined Homage as a freelance caregiver. I’d been freshly out of a job and deciding what I wanted to do with my life. And I’d seen the advertisement for an “elderly caregiver” on FastJobs, which also advertised that training would be provided. I had some experience caring for my elderly aunts, and I was quite interested in the Homage model.
With the Caregiver Training Grant provided by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), I was able to tap on the incentive and attend the mandatory upskilling course before becoming a paid Caregiver. I paid only $10 for the course which was a great stepping-stone on my journey to become a Homage Care Professional. I also went for my CPR-AED certification that was conducted free of charge at Nee Soon East Community Club.
Caring for others as a Homage Care Professional
My role as a Homage Care Professional is to ensure that the Care Recipient is able to meet their basic ADLs*.
*A disability is an impairment of an individual’s physical body or their cognitive capability, which limits the individual’s active participation in activities, and also active interaction with the world around them (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Limitations due to an individual’s disability affect their quality of life and their active involvement in their Activities of Daily Living (ADL), and some might need assistance for it.
Most of the care recipients I care for have physical disabilities. They need additional support to help them get ready for the day. Services like showering assistance, change of adult diapers and clothes, basic grooming services are something quite regular for me. Every care visit is unique and different, which sustains and excites me!
Homage care recipients are both male and female, and the caregiving industry should break free of its gender-specific perceptions toward caregiving work. Men can be excellent and nurturing caregivers too. I hope my role as a care professional inspires other men, and people in general, who are considering this career path as well.
Advice for new CarePros
As a CarePro mentor, I usually meet and orientate new CarePros in person. Owing to COVID-19, this has reduced significantly, though I will generally guide them step by step on how to physically care for the care recipient, and show them some tips and tricks I’ve learnt along my journey as a Care Professional.
I leave them with a lasting anecdote; “Always put yourself in the senior’s shoes. This person is just like you, with a name, a story to tell, memories they hold dear, and desires and needs. I like to feel good about myself by looking good, the senior also feels the same. Care for the Care Recipient the same way you’d care for yourself”.
That usually does the trick, and it works every time.
How I balance my life
I work the usual Mondays to Fridays, and spend my Saturdays with back-to-back Care Visits as a Homage Care Professional. I don’t exactly need the extra money, but I do it since the families I work with really enjoy my presence and assistance and I have an obligation towards the seniors I care for.
I rescue, feed and care for the community cats living in my neighbourhood. I make it a point to meet up with my neighbours every Friday evening so we can explore our neighbourhood and interact with the many community cats and their human caregivers. I have three cats at home, with the most recent addition – a three-week old abandoned kitten joining our family earlier in April.
I make it a point to meet my close friends at least once a month for drinks and dinner. On Sundays, it’s home day for me and I have errands to run and laundry to do. I no longer live with my aunts, but I do make it a point to visit them at least once a month on my free day, so I can send some money, and catch up with them.
Late last year in 2019, I fulfilled one of my annual resolutions – to learn a new skill. I took up a SkillsFuture-assisted Men’s basic hairdressing course to learn the fundamentals of haircutting, and I’m glad to share that I’ve been regularly giving haircuts to the care recipients I care for, as an add-on service to bring a smile of relief.
I always believe that the key to a respectable quality of life is to feel great, look good, look presentable, and that will bring wonders to our mental health and overall well-being. If it works for us abled individuals, it’s exactly the same for an elderly individual living with an age-related physical disability.
I’m also pursuing a post-graduate in Social Work right now and I’d like to become a medical social worker in the next decade, hence the upgrading work!
Special thanks to Ash for contributing his story and photos, and to Homage for the opportunity to interview him.
Photos without masks were taken before Circuit Breaker.