Crushed by the weight of caring for an elderly couple for nearly a year, a 25-year-old Myanmar domestic worker suffered a mental breakdown to the point of refusing to enter her employer’s house and asking to be transferred to another employer.
The domestic worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, was reported by Lianhe Zaobao as saying that she was required to wake up every half an hour in the early hours of the morning to assist the 104-year-old man when he needed to go to the toilet.
She also alleged that she was forced to sleep on the same bed with him for the reason that it would enable her to take care of him more easily.
The family of the two elders, however, denied all the allegations made by the domestic worker.
They claimed that they had even given her a salary increase of S$200 last month out of recognition for her hard work.
Mr Su, a 65-year-old private hire car driver, said that the domestic helper had been working in his parents’ house for nearly a year.
He said that earlier last month, the domestic helper suddenly cried and refused to enter the house after she had gone on a stroll outside with his 92-year-old mother, who is wheelchair-bound.
He continued that his younger brother — who has just dropped by to visit their parents — was worried that the domestic helper might have suicidal thoughts, He then proceeded to called the police.
Domestic helper asked to sleep on the same bed with elderly man, as family worried he will fall down
The domestic helper told Lianhe that she started working at Mr Su’s house in December last year.
“Ah Gong [Grandpa] is in poor health. At midnight, I have to wake up every half an hour to help him go to the toilet. After working for a few months, Ah Gong was admitted into hospital due to poor health.
“His family was worried that he might fall down from his bed after being discharged, so they asked me to sleep on the same bed with Ah Gong for me to take care of him easily. I refused, but they said I cannot reject it,” said the domestic helper.
The domestic helper added that Mr Su’s 33-year-old son would yell at her when Ah Gong did not want to exercise, ate too slowly or had difficulty going to the toilet, which placed her under great distress.
In response, Mr Su explained that his son assists her in caring for the elders.
“Given the language barrier, he would inevitably have a bad tone when he is impatient, but it is definitely not a case of blaming the domestic helper. We know she is working hard, so we gave her a raise last month,” he claimed.
Touching on the allegation that the domestic helper was asked to sleep in the same bed as his father, Mr Su claimed that they had asked for her consent before they made this arrangement and that she did not reject the request at that time.
Employee of domestic helper agency calls elderly mother in threatening manner, claiming it was due to eagerness to protect the helper
Mr Su narrated that after police arrived at the scene, the domestic helper was brought to the police station and was later sent back to the agency.
He added that two days after the incident, he received a call from an employee of the agency, who insisted on talking to his mother, as the employee claimed that the domestic helper was applied under the name of his mother.
“The female employee had repeatedly told my mother that we abused the domestic helper and also threatened my mother that ‘law enforcement might be involved’,” he noted.
Mr Su went on to say that the agency had later called his mother several times, causing his mother unbearable stress to the point of being admitted to the hospital.
He said that they have filed a police report over the matter.
Responding to media queries, a spokesperson from the agency said that it has apologised to Mr Su’s mother through a phone call and face-to-face and.
The relevant employee was subjected to disciplinary action and counselling, the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson also explained that the agency has learnt from the relevant employee that she lost control of her attitude due to her eagerness to protect the maid.
Domestic helper claims employer’s family did not permit her to seek treatment when ill, withheld her bank account password
Apart from this, the domestic helper also alleged that her employer’s family did not permit her to seek treatment when ill and that they did not give her the password of her bank account even though she has asked for the password twice, which impeded her from sending money back to her hometown.
Claiming that the domestic helper did not inform them of her condition, Mr Su said that they would be apprehensive if she had a fever, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Su also said that while the domestic helper had raised the matter of sending money back home and was told that his son could help her to transfer money electronically, she did not have the details of the bank account in her hometown.
“We have discussed with her that we will bring her to remit money after she accumulated her salary a little more and she also agreed at that time,” he said.
Responding to queries from Lianhe Zaobao, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that it has been informed of this incident and the case is still under investigation. The police also confirmed that they have received the report.
Netizens express empathy with domestic helper, highlight importance of professional carers
Upon reading the news, many netizens expressed empathy toward the Myanmar domestic worker for having to take care of the elderly couple alone.
[Translation: It is too difficult. Even their own children are unable to care for them, let alone the weak domestic helper. The maid is not caring for a baby, but (has to deal with) the excrement of elderly people. It is too difficult for a domestic helper.]
[Translation: It is difficult to care for one elderly person, not to mention two elderly people. It is indeed difficult for the domestic helper.]
[Translation: Try to care for two elderly people, then you would understand how hard it is for the domestic helper.]
[Translation: If she is telling the truth, then I would agree that she changes employers, or else she might suffer from depression sooner or latter. It is very stressful to care for elderly people and getting a salary increase is not the solution.]
Some netizens also suggested that a professional carer would be more suitable for the elderly couple. Alternatively, the family ought to hire two domestic helpers to care for the elderly couple.
[Translation: It is too difficult for one person to care for two elderly people. I personally think that a professional from a healthcare agency should take care of the 104-year-old. The domestic helper is not Superwoman … Sons or grandsons should also offer help.]
[Translation: It is not a matter of increasing her salary, but it is about caring for two elderly people alone for a long time. The maid would not have enough rest time and sleeping time if she had to wake up at midnight to care for the elderly couple. The employer should either hire two domestic helpers to take turns caring for the elderly couple day and night, or send the elderly parents to a nursing home.]
[Translation: It is too unreasonable for a domestic helper to take care of two elderly people. They should hire one more domestic helper and apply for a fee waiver from the government. If not, no amount of money will help, because taking care of elderly people really consumes a lot of physical and mental strength.]
[Translation: Domestic helpers with professional nursing training are needed.]
[Translation: It is not easy to care for two elderly people, I really feel that it is better to place them in a nursing home for the professionals to take care of. It is unnecessary to talk about filial piety in this condition as the children may not have any solution in caring for their elders with such conditions. The physical health of two elderly parents should be prioritised.]
On the other hand, other netizens also criticised the employers for their inappropriate request of asking the maid to sleep on the same bed with an elderly man.
[Translation: It is questionable as to why they forced the domestic helper to sleep (in the same bed), this is too disrespectful and going too far.]
[Translation: It is too much for asking a young lady to sleep with an elderly man. Does a domestic helper not deserve respect?]