How to hire the right domestic helper or caregiver for your elderly family member

Hiring a maid or caregiver to care for an elderly family member? Discover the differences between domestic helpers and professional caregivers in Singapore and how to select the right option for your loved one.

by Tan Jia Hui

As we age, it is natural that many of us will require some level of assistance with activities of daily living, be it due to mobility issues or cognitive decline.

Besides family members, we usually turn to a domestic helper or caregiver to help seniors maintain independence and quality of life. But a common challenge is to find the right form of care and support.

Choosing the right caregiver or domestic helper can seem like a formidable task, but it is essential to ensure that your loved one receives the care and support they need. Read on to learn more about the differences between domestic helpers and caregivers, and key consideration factors when hiring caregivers.

Differences between a domestic helper and a caregiver

The distinction between a domestic helper and caregiver is not always clear since there are often overlapping responsibilities and skills. While both may be expected to perform duties like housekeeping and meal preparation, there are key differences between a domestic helper and caregiver.

Job Scope

For one, their primary responsibilities differ. A domestic helper’s main role is to help out with household chores like cleaning, washing, laundry and cooking, while a caregiver focuses on taking care of an individual’s well-being. Caregiving duties can range from personal care and companionship to medication reminders and accompanying care recipients to appointments.

A domestic helper may assist with caregiving duties, but they are usually not formally trained or equipped with the proper skill sets to deliver care safely. Similarly, a caregiver can perform housekeeping duties, but it is better to limit the scope of housekeeping so they can focus their time, attention and energy on delivering care instead, since it is their specialisation and main responsibility.

Skills and Training

Since their main duties and responsibilities differ, domestic helpers and caregivers undergo different training.

A domestic helper typically requires minimal training and skills, as the work involves performing routine household chores. In contrast, a caregiver requires specialised training, such as CPR and first aid, infection control, and basic medical skills, in addition to soft skills such as communication, empathy, and problem-solving. Requirements may differ slightly, but individuals are generally required to have prior caregiving experiences and/or attained a degree, diploma or certificate in caregiving or nursing to be a caregiver in Singapore.

Criteria to consider for hiring the right help

Determining the suitability of a caregiver or domestic helper for your loved one is subjective — what works best for you may not work well for someone else — but there are several factors you can consider to guide you in hiring the right help.

1. Ability to communicate with each other

Communication is essential for building trust and establishing a rapport between the caregiver and the senior. The caregiver you hire should ideally speak a language that the senior is comfortable with. This ensures that the caregiver understands your loved one’s specific needs and preferences, including dietary requirements and preferences, daily routines, and medical needs, and is able to tailor personalised care to your loved one.

Besides ensuring there is no language barrier, the caregiver should be an effective communicator and adopt a communication style that suits the individual. For example, if the senior is unable or unwilling to communicate verbally, such as in the case of those with dementia, the caregiver should learn to work around it and adapt by trying different techniques like speaking slowly, giving clear choices, and rephrasing their questions.

It is not easy to find a caregiver whose communication style completely fits the senior immediately. You should expect some teething troubles in the initial stages, but monitor if the caregiver and senior are adapting well to each other and getting along, and guide the caregiver along when necessary.

2. Your loved one’s health condition

If the senior mainly requires companionship, meal preparation, and/or assistance with household chores, a domestic helper tends to be sufficient. However, if your loved one requires personal, nursing or medical care, such as toileting, bed turning or medication management, a professional caregiver or nurse is a better option.

It is essential to consider your loved one’s mobility and level of independence when selecting a caregiver or domestic helper. For example, if your loved one has difficulty walking or requires assistance with transfers, you will need to choose a caregiver who is physically able to provide the necessary support. Similarly, if your loved one has cognitive impairment, it can be beneficial to engage a caregiver who has experience working with seniors with similar conditions.

3. Timing and frequency of care needed

Besides the type of care required, the timing and frequency of care needed also play a part in your decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself before engaging a domestic helper or caregiver:

  • Does your loved one need daily care and supervision or only light care 1 to 2 times per week, such as for someone to accompany them for exercise and walks or buying groceries? 
    • Note that domestic helpers have one day off per week, so if your loved one needs daily care, hiring a caregiver may be a better option. Alternatively, you can hire a part-time caregiver to cover the days that your domestic helper is away on break.
    • If your loved one only needs light care support several times a week, consider a part-time caregiver where you only pay for the hours you book care for, instead of hiring a full-time domestic helper.
  • Does your loved one have trouble going to the washroom at night or require 24/7 monitoring?
    • Consider hiring multiple caregivers or a professional care agency to ensure that there is always someone available to provide the necessary support. Homage can arrange for round-the-clock care, scheduling a different caregiver every 12 hours to ensure that they are always alert and ready to help.
  • How much time do you or other family members have to provide care?
    • If you are available at most times of the day to support your loved one and just need a caregiver to cover you while you are away or to provide additional help, you can choose to hire a part-time caregiver instead of engaging full-time help.

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4. Whether you/the senior needs help around the house

Do you or your loved one need help with household chores? 

A domestic helper’s role is predominantly to assist with household chores like cleaning, laundry and meal preparation. Caregivers, on the other hand, specialises in providing personal care and may only do light cleaning, like sweeping and mopping the bedroom, if they impact the well-being of the senior.

Hence, the type of care you and your loved one needs will also determine your decision.

5. Carer’s level of experience

Source: Unsplash

Depending on the type of care you are looking for, the caregiver’s skills and level of experience play a crucial role in determining the quality of care your loved one receives. 

Most domestic helpers are not trained to deliver care and are new to caregiving. If you choose to hire them, you may have to send them for the necessary caregiving courses. Only a selected few domestic helpers would have already undergone proper caregiving training and/or had prior experience taking care of seniors.

Conversely, professional caregivers receive specialised training to provide comprehensive care to individuals with varying conditions. As their main duty is to provide care, they have vast experience dealing with different individuals, which allows them to adapt their caregiving style and communication to meet the unique needs of each recipient. Moreover, some caregivers may have specialised training to cater to individuals with specific conditions like dementia, making them well-equipped to deliver appropriate care to those in need.

At Homage, our professional caregivers (also called Homage Care Pros) are professionally trained and undergo a rigorous screening process to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience to provide high-quality care. All Homage Care Pros are locals to ensure they are able to communicate, understand, and relate well with your loved ones.

6. Your budget for your loved one’s care 

Engaging professional care support can be costly, especially for individuals who require long-term care as the cost can add up over time. Besides the consideration factors mentioned above, you should also consider whether you can afford to keep up this level of care in the long run.

Domestic helpers are usually paid a monthly salary. There are also additional fees and hidden costs of hiring a domestic helper in Singapore that you must take into consideration, such as maid agency fees, work permit, daily living expenses, and foreign worker levy (which can potentially be subsidised by the Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Levy Concession if eligible).

On the other hand, hiring caregivers allows for more flexible payment. Caregiving hours may be charged hourly or daily to ensure that you only pay for the hours you need. This is particularly helpful for families who only need care in the day or during specific time periods, or on occasions when the primary caregiver is unavailable.


Choosing the right caregiver or domestic helper for your loved one is a critical decision that requires careful consideration and research. The consideration factors discussed in this article should serve as a guide during your research journey. Remember that every individual and family have different considerations and care needs. As a family caregiver, be confident in your judgement as you know your loved one’s needs and preferences best.

If you are currently looking to hire the right help for your loved one, why not share with us your loved one’s care needs and requirements and let our experienced Care Advisors tailor a unique care plan for you?

At Homage, we offer a comprehensive suite of care services that you can engage on an hourly basis. Our Care Advisors can provide a free initial care consultation to customise a care plan that meets your loved one’s unique needs and budget. Those who only require short-term or short-hour care can engage our Care Pros on an hourly basis, while those who require longer-term care can consider a long-hour package with discounted per-hour rates.

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About the Writer
Tan Jia Hui
Jia Hui is a content marketer who loves helping others and hopes to make this world a kinder place in any way she can. In her pockets of free time, you can find her snacking on ice cream and fries with her 80-year-young Grandma at home.
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