You might not know it from looking at her sophisticated bearing. You might not guess from the dignified way she carries herself. But once you get to know auntie Mae, you will know why she is the life of the party, and how she can brighten up the day for anyone - any room she walks into soon fills with joy and laughter!
Mae is no stranger to the medical industry, and has worked both in and out of the industry for some time. Since the 1980s, Mae has worked as an aide to doctors such as Dr Arthur Lim at Mount Elizabeth, and Dr Chew Da Costa. She has also earned her own entrepreneurial chops in the private education field as a teacher, delivering personalized tuition services in English, Math and Science to a wide range of students. In 2011, Mae returned to the field of caregiving, combining her previous experiences as a medical aide as well as solo service provider running her own business. As a caregiver, Mae has handled more than a hundred patients whether on a casual basis or as a rostered agency employee. The photo below shows Mae after a 13-hour engagement, her dementia patient has been partly cropped out.
Mae certainly has plenty of love for her patients: “I like this kind of job. I don’t know why - the patient suddenly comes, and I feel they need help.” Like many caregivers, Mae often has to straddle the fine line between being a service provider, and going above and beyond the call of duty: “Some ask me to cook, I cook for them. It’s actually very difficult - once you build a rapport, you get stuck.”
The greatest systemic difficulty Mae faces, is in having too many family members speaking for one patient. “Sometimes patients keep getting scolded by family members who don’t know how to cope," she said. There is too much interference, as “everybody wants to be a spokesperson”. Some family members even countermand each other. Conflicts can be hard to manage when the children themselves are professional caregivers such as doctors or pharmacists, handling their own parents (and clashing with their siblings who are also professionals). “Sometimes problems arise not because we don’t do it properly, but because of too many opinions. Every patient should have just one spokesperson,” she added.
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But of her patients themselves, Mae has nothing but plenty of love when she recounts her stories! Mae’s WhatsApp is filled with chatter from former patients as well as their families.
Back in 2012, Mae had a patient, C, a 90-something Cantonese lady with three daughters, one of whom was deceased. Owing to dementia, C cannot remember why her deceased daughter never comes back home. Mae had to care for C after C fell and broke her hip, and they struck up a good rapport. Mae would visit C every day at night for more than three hours, carry C for her baths, and cook nutritious meals for C to help heal her fracture – a difficult thing in old age. Mae would sing the first lines of Cantonese songs, and C would complete the song for Mae. To this day, they still keep in touch – Mae visits C, and one of C’s younger daughters regularly keeps messaging Mae with smiling pictures of C.
Throughout Mae’s interview with CGA, it was clear that Mae finds plenty of joy in life. “Laughter is the best medicine,” she points out, “because our turn will come. We use our resources to help others. If you don’t enjoy the job, you will definitely give yourself stress.” We wish auntie Mae all the best in her future caregiving endeavors!
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