An ageing population, low birth rate and the looming caregiving crisis have been common headlines in recent months. With caregiving becoming a fact of life for many, whether you might be a young adult caring for your grandparents, or a working adult looking after your parents, these topics will continue to dominate conversations.
With this, more individuals are becoming aware of the aged care industry as well as growing job opportunities too. At Homage, we are seeing more Singaporeans step forward to care for an ageing population. Our diverse pool of Care Professionals come from all backgrounds and we commonly see ex-nurses or individuals who have personal caregiving experiences join us.
What does it take for someone who has had no caregiving experience to join Homage? For Esther Joy Mark, becoming a freelance caregiver was not in her cards, so how did she end up becoming a Care Professional?
Responses below have been edited for readability and clarity.
Becoming a caregiver by chance
When I first met Esther, it was at our recent Care Pro Appreciation Night. An affable and charismatic individual, Esther was chatting with various Care Pros, bonding over their common joys and struggles of their caregiving experience. She was such a natural conversationalist and seemed to have an innate love for caregiving that I assumed she had years of experience in. I later learnt that she had become a caregiver by chance, but has never looked back since!
Esther worked as a legal assistant in her early 20s but was unfortunately impacted by a company layoff. During this lull period, she was looking for job opportunities and got to know about Homage through a friend who was a freelance caregiver. She was unfamiliar with freelance caregiving and shared that: “I had no idea what that meant, whether one required healthcare experience and if there was even a demand for such a service.”
Upon learning that she would have to go through basic caregiver training before starting the job, Esther felt more reassured that she would not be thrown into the deep end of the pool, and decided to give it a shot.
“I didn’t come from a healthcare background, and never thought about joining the industry, but I’ve always had an affinity with the elderly. Whether it was in church or some of my older relatives, I always found it easy to strike up conversations with them, and was always fascinated to hear about their life experiences.”
“There was nothing to lose by signing up as a Care Professional with Homage. It was a new ball game, but one that I thought, “Hey, nothing to lose!”, so that’s just what I did. It’s been a whirlwind of an experience since I joined in 2020, and I’m glad I took that leap of faith,” she added.
Esther with her Grammy at her recent birthday
Experiences that cemented her love for caring
When Esther first started at Homage, she worked across different settings including nursing homes and charity organisations like Thye Hua Kwan Home for The Disabled and Ren Ci Nursing Home. Fast forward to 3 years later, Esther has clocked in over 250 visits and delivered over 2,030 hours of care!
THK Home for The Disabled was where Esther found her love for caregiving, and was able to see the impact of the care she was providing.
Esther shared that with any new job, caregiving was an intimidating experience, and she was apprehensive at the start. For instance, when she was first assigned to Thye Hua Kwan Home for The Disabled, she was not confident in her abilities and was unsure of how to interact with the care recipients.
“In my personal life, I had not worked or interacted with disabled adults, so it was very new to me. But I knew that with anything, it takes time. I wanted to make sure that I was giving my best, and providing the best care possible, so I wasn’t shy to ask questions or for help when needed,” Esther shared.
She provides a range of services from assisting care recipients with their activities of daily living (ADL) to providing companionship services—which has been a growing service in Singapore. Whether it’s striking up conversations with older adults to keep them socially active, or engaging in activities like jigsaw puzzles, Esther has probably done it all.
What keeps her going
For Esther, being able to connect with her elderly clients and forging friendships with them is what keeps her going. When their families share a word of thanks or show appreciation, it pushes her to continue. But while caregiving does bring an innate sense of fulfilment, it comes with its fair share of challenges.
On occasion, Esther has uncooperative care recipients often due to ailments like dementia, or on a more sombre note, she has had care recipients who pass on. After 3 years on the job, Esther has learnt how to compartmentalise her feelings and regulate her emotions, and while grief is inevitable, it is also part and parcel of life.
Esther with her close group of friends
Her family is a huge part of her life, and her friends whom she holds dearly to her heart keep her going. The human connection and privilege of caring for others through their struggles is something she doesn’t take lightly.
If you’ve thought about becoming a caregiver, but aren’t sure if you have the relevant experience, we hope that Esther’s story has inspired you! Homage is always on the lookout for caregivers with a heart to help others. It’s not about having the right qualifications or experience, but is about having the right attitude and passion to care for others.