Katherine Fung doesn’t see her daily interactions with her elderly patients as part of a mundane job. Instead, the passion of caregiving has opened her eyes to an enriching experience that’s hard to find anywhere else!
Hopping on board CaregiverAsia during the last quarter of 2016, Katherine has taken a shine into providing her caregiving services to the elderly stricken with dementia and other long-term medical conditions. Where many others would see it as a chore, to provide regular attention to these aging patients, Katherine sees it as an important and a necessary role to play in their lives. Here, we speak with Katherine about her true passion in caregiving, as well as the irreplaceable rewarding experience that comes along with the career!
Q: What inspired you to become a Medical Escort or a Care Companion and how long have you been one?
A: I have an elderly mom (aged 84) who stays with me, as well as having been involved in a few ad-hoc volunteering. From that, I clearly understand the importance of ensuring the comfort of elderly patients and keeping them active so as to provide a positive approach to life in their old age, aside from fulfilling their necessities.
Despite their age or health condition, the elderly are still humans. Their pride and needs are still something that should be watched out for. These qualities have to be taken in stride when we take care of them so that they do not feel that we are doing it out of pity.
I joined CaregiverAsia last year as I feel that we can provide an alternative option to fill in for the family Caregiver by giving them some personal time and breathing space. As a third party, we can also share objective views with the family Caregivers when we bond with their elders who will eventually open up to us with their personal feelings.
Q: What did you do before this?
A: I have been working in positions dealing with management and operations, and am also currently providing professional financial consulting. These roles have helped me better in understanding people, such as managing conflicts and crises. Patience and having a good listening ear were crucial in my previous jobs, and it is not much different in my role as a Caregiver.
Q: What do you like about being a medical escort/care companion? And what do you dislike about it?
A: I like seeing the genuine smiles from my elderly patients whenever I meet with them, and how they come to enjoy my sessions and companionship. It makes me feel appreciated as a Caregiver.
It is hard to dislike the role as this role, like any other jobs out there, relies heavily on your inner interest. Both your passion and your positive attitude are key, as they affect your performance and the others around you.
Q: Please share with us your experience as a medical escort in Singapore.
A: As a medical escort in Singapore, repetitions are norm and patience is key.
I am currently engaged with an elder suffering from dementia, and our sessions have always been enjoyable ones, jam-packed with games, simple exercises and sing-a-longs. It is a joy to see her looking forward to every session and I can feel the growth of our bond. Though I cannot 'cure' the condition, the smile she gives when she sees me makes my job a joy itself!
Q: Who utilize your services? Do you have regulars?
A: The ones who engage my services are usually family members or Caregivers of elderly patients. I do have regulars as this is important in providing the elders a familiar face for them to recognize and bond comfortably. As a bonus, some families go so far to treat me as one of them, by warmly welcoming me into their households!
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Q: Do you have tips for looking after people with chronic illness, with dementia or the elderly in general?
A: Generally, as long as a Caregiver is passionate in his or her job, people around them can naturally feel it. Be professional, learn to be patient and have a listening ear. Try as best as you can to make your elder comfortable and treat them like an equal. Take notice of their pride and encourage them along through obstacles.
Most importantly, do not go against their thoughts, even when they are wrong. Instead, just distract them from the issue and rework the process again patiently.
Q: Share with us what your day as a medical escort/care companion looks like.
A: Firstly, from the very first session to subsequent ones, I would dress exactly the same as the first time so that they will grow to recognize me. I will start the session by constantly encouraging them to talk to me about whatever they feel like sharing.
I will eventually go on by playing some games with them, progressing into some simple exercises and ending the session on a high note with sing-a-longs. Throughout the activities, I will pay special attention to their emotions and adjust the situation when necessary to suit their enjoyment and comfort levels.
Q: Have you experienced any extraordinary cases during a job?
A: Every case is an experience itself as no two caregiving jobs are ever similar, even if the elders have the same existing medical conditions. I was quite surprised during a case with a dementia elder, where she actually remembered me (I gave her a very simple nickname) when I turned up for our regular session.
Q: What makes a very good medical escort or care companion and what should people look for when choosing one?
A: It is very important for the elder’s family to feel comfortable with you and for them to share their character, likes and dislikes and their medical conditions.
As a Caregiver, you will also need to be comfortable to take on the job and be honest with the family by letting them know if you have any concerns or limitations on the task, so that both parties can start on the right foot to understand each other and the expectations set, in the interest of the elder concerned.
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