During my mother-in-law’s recent hospital stay, I was glad to have the help of one Indonesian domestic helper Yati.
Many of the nurses in the geriatric wards are from the Philippines and China. The young doctors who attended to her are either from India or China. My mother-in-law has difficulty communicating with the healthcare staff in her dialect. She was able to communicate with Yati in Malay language.
During my mother-in-law’s week long stay, Yati helped with the feeding sometimes, wiping her drool and keep her company during our absence.
Several patients in the ward have their domestic helpers by their sides. These caregivers will stay with them during their hospitalisation. Some of them are almost as good as the trained nurses as they go about their chores of looking after their elderly charges.
Looking healthy and cheerful, Yati has been taking care of a 84 year-old lady who has dementia for the past 6 years. I am impressed by her tender loving care for her charge as she treats her just like her own mother. Yati is 27, married to a farmer in Jawa Timur and has two young children whom she misses very much. Fortunately for her, she has a caring employer who treats her like a family member. Although she is given a day off every week, Yati seldom takes a break as she prefers to save her money for her family back home.
Yati was a great help to the overstretched nurses in our ward as she would sometimes help with the feeding of the patients or helping them adjust the beds so they could rest comfortably.
In the same ward was another Indonesian maid Tong who looked malnourished and exhausted. She was timid and kept to herself. Her employer was a fierce middle-aged lady who often raised her voice at her. When any maid tried to befriend Tong, her employer would glare at them or scold them.
We observed that her employer only give her bread or leftovers from her meals. Whenever her employer was asleep, some of us or the nurses would secretly slipped some food and drinks to her.
Through the limited conversation Yati had with Tong, we learnt that she is only 19 and comes from a small village in Surabaya. She has been here for only 10 months. Not used to our lifestyle here and the tiring working hours, she is homesick and a little depressed. Worried for her, Yati secretly gave Tong her contact number.
These domestic helpers have left their families and country to work in a foreign land, often heavily saddled with debts. Many of them are away from home for the first time. They can only count on luck to find a caring employer whom they have to live with for at least two years. They should be treated as fellow humans with needs and dreams just like you and I.