Should Maids Be Hired As Live-in Nurses?

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In the last few years, there have been several cases where foreign domestic workers (FDW) murdered their elderly employers. In the latest case, a 23 year-old Burmese maid murdered her 70 year-old employer in their Choa Chu Kang flat. In 2017, a 38 year-old Indonesian maid killed her elderly employer by plunging a knife into her throat after the latter nagged at her for eating too slowly.

In Singapore, it is common for people to hire FDWs to care for their elderly parents while they are at work. Many people choose to hire FDWs over professional nurses due to the significantly lower cost of hiring a FDW. The average salary of a FDW in Singapore ranges from $500 to $600. The cost of hiring a foreign home nurse is about $1000 while the cost of a local home nurse can go up to $6000. FDWs are therefore the most cost  effective option for most Singaporean families. Apart from caring for the elderly, these FDWs are also expected to help out with the household chores, making them the all-in-one solution for their employers.

However, in light of these cases, the question of whether FDWs should be hired in place of professional home-care nurses must be raised. Most FDWs are not medically trained to care for elderly patients. These FDWs are often young and inexperienced, and may have problems communicating with their elderly charges who likely only speak Mandarin or dialects. Coupled with the demands of other  household duties, FDWs come under great pressure in such situations. In addition, FDWs are often in a poor emotional state as they struggle to adjust to a foreign environment while missing their family back home.

Given these circumstances, it is no wonder why some FDWs crack under pressure which result in dire consequences for some families. It is maybe time for us to reconsider the job scope of a FDW, and to reassess the suitability of FDWs in caring for elderly patients who often require more sophisticated medical care.

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