Recent news reports from Hong Kong have highlighted the plight of four domestic helpers that committed suicide as a result of being victims of debt and association with illegal money lenders.
In countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, domestic helpers are needed in the community. They provide support and care for many older adults living in the community allowing them to age in place in their homes (Yeo 2014); this includes people with or without dementia. Many of helpers are live in caregivers for older adults; providing round the clock care, be it toileting at three in the morning or escorting them to an activity at three in the afternoon, they will be there. Live in helpers provide a much-needed service and care for many of us who strive to keep our loved homes at home instead of institutionalisation, think nursing home.
For those who are not familiar with foreign domestic help in Asia, you may wish to read the two article below.
Live-in domestic helpers consist of mostly women from Philipines, Myanmar, Indonesia or even Thailand. The job of a domestic helper covers a range of responsibilities;
- Cooking nutritious culturally specific meals
- Ensuring clean and sanitary environment
- Carrying out personal hygiene
- Household maintenance
- Provide activities as specified by the employers or therapist
- Escorts and transport
- Nursing care. (Nursing care may cover anything from medication administration, basic wound dressings to cleaning out a colostomy bag.)
Our loved ones with dementia who are being cared for by these dedicated helpers, may not be able to recognise the signs of stress that helpers may be experiencing when faced with debt. It is important that guardians, employers and policy makers provide the support and education to ensure that the helpers caring for our older adults do not fall prey to these manipulative schemes. Migrating to a foreign country to care for an older adult is not an easy task, leaving family and friends to provide 24-hour care to a stranger. Yes, there is an acknowledgement of choice and payment, but that is not to say that it is a difficult task none the less.Open communication, education about finances and an outlet to seek help to helpers is needed. This will help to prevent them from becoming a target for loan sharks/illegal money lenders who show up at the door and harassing the helper.
In a news article from Philstar global, Emily Lau, a Legislative Councillor from Hong Kong was quoted as saying “The main reason these women are in debt is because governments allow agents to collect so much money from them.” On top of that, the South China Morning Post had reported that agencies were found working with creditors, imposing loans on helpers at rates so high that they are deemed illegal. Caught in a distant land, with family at home to support, harassed by money lenders and debt appears to have no end in sight. It is sad that lives are lost because of these vile schemes.
For the hardworking and dedicated helpers who are protecting our loved ones with dementia from institutionalisation and helping them to maintain a good quality of life. We need to in turn assist them and ensure they do not fall prey to scheming smooth talking illegal moneylenders. These illegal money lenders or loan sharks promise fast and easy solution; on the pretence of providing helpers with a hand with loans. Only to trap them in a mountain of debt, bound with harassment and threats that have resulted in a lost of lives due to these tragic circumstances.