Family & Wellness Links


Helping hands

Why having a caregiver can be a boon for some families.

By Grace Leung


Filipinos are known to be nurturing, lending support, and often sharing homes with extended families. The concept of homes for the aged may seem heartless to the Filipino. 

Although lolo and lola may seem productive and independent, sooner or later they will be showing signs of advancing years—from relatively simple conditions such as difficulty in hearing or poor eyesight, to more complex diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  

The physical, physiological and psychological changes that come with age result in the senior’s increasing dependence on others. Having a family member take care of an elderly loved one is usually preferred for many reasons. It’s more comfortable for the care recipient, more reassuring for the family, and requires less financial resources. But it’s not always a feasible option. 

Knowing when help is needed

Rowena, whose mother has been battling Parkinson’s since 1988,  decided to get a caregiver after her mom had heart surgery in 2003.  She recalls, “By then, her [condition] had progressed to the point that she [needed] someone to be with her even after she recovered from surgery.” 

No one in her immediate family could take on the responsibility. And time isn’t the only thing to consider. Rowena points out, “Apart from the physical demands of caregiving, it is sometimes mentally and emotionally taxing for some family members to be their parent's caregivers. [My tita] lived with my lola and was the only one at home with her. Although my tita was quite committed to taking care of her mother, you could see that it was also taking its toll on her.”

 We must remember that it’s all about giving the best possible care, and a stressed, emotionally drained son or daughter may not be the right person for the job. 

Finding a match

Since the caregiver will be spending a lot of time alone with your loved one, hiring the right person for the job is crucial. Here are some ways to ensure a good match:

• Consult the care recipient. In making the transition from unpaid, informal caregivers to a trained or experienced one, the first step is to discuss this major move with the family member concerned.

      Unless mentally incapacitated, the care recipient should be consulted on what would be best for his or her needs. The concerns may be as simple as being more comfortable with a female or male caregiver, or as detailed as determining the scope of the caregiver’s responsibilities.

• Decide on the caregiver’s tasks.
A caregiver’s responsibilities may vary according to the needs of the care recipient. The Family Caregiver Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that helps families and friends who provide long-term care at home, suggests considering tasks such as:

- Personal: assisting the patient in eating, dressing, taking a bath or using the toilet
- Household: meal preparation, dishwashing, house cleaning, laundry
- Health: medication management, physical therapy, accompanying the patient to doctor’s appointments
- Emotional: providing stimulating activities, conversations and companionship

Based on the task and the care recipient’s condition, you can already decide whether you just need someone to come in for a few hours a day or 24/7. Being clear about what you want the caregiver to do will also help determine the qualifications.

• Find a caregiver through reliable channels. Make inquiries in reputable hospitals, or ask your physician for possible options such as agencies or registered nurses-turned-freelance caregivers.

The government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority ( notes that the current demand for care workers, especially in developing countries, exceeds the supply. This has encouraged not only the growth of legitimate schools offering caregiving courses, but also fly-by-night training centers. Their website cautions that “graduates from these unauthorized centers would be lacking in proper training and knowledge to work in hospitals, hospices, retirement and nursery homes.”

For home care, however, comprehensive training and technical knowledge aren’t always necessary. If the tasks are mostly for personal care and emotional support, good character and the right attitude can go a long way despite the lack of formal training. This is probably why most rely on personal referrals. If the caregiver wasn’t recommended by someone you personally know, it’s best to contact previous employers and ask about their experience.

• Monitor the caregiver’s performance. Once you find a caregiver who seems to fit the bill, it’s quite tempting to relinquish all responsibility, especially if you’ve been waiting to be relieved of caregiving duties for some time. You should, however, still keep tabs on how she is carrying out her tasks and relating with your loved one.

A caregiver’s role in an elderly loved one’s life is very significant, but this doesn’t mean that family will take a backseat. Get tips achieving the right balance for the care of your elderly loved ones in the September issue of HealthToday.

Bantay Matanda conducts a monthly lay forum on the needs and concerns of the elderly. Call (02) 373 2262, 998 2548, (0917) 416 7849 or visit for more information.

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