Caregiving, a thriving sector that we are ignoring

Professional home care for the elderly in Ghana has been ignored. Image Source: Kwame Amo/Shutterstock

A GNA Feature by Hannah Awadzi

Niek, a Dutch, was taking Adwoa, a Ghanaian, who was on a visit to the Netherlands, around his neighbourhood and pointed to a building that housed the aged.

Adwoa shrugged and Niek noticed it, since Niek had lived most of his productive life in Africa as a Tropical doctor, he knew how most Africans perceived aged homes, so he quickly added, “your country is developing and soon you will find the need for such establishment.”

Many years down the line, Adwoa, a Ghanaian living in Ghana is considering setting up what she wants to term “Care Giving Institute” to train especially the youth to take up careers as caregivers.

Adwoa, grew up in Ghana in a middle-income home. Growing up, her household always had live-in helpers who were not part of her biological family. Adwoa’s mother was a baker and her father worked with an international cooperation institution.

She had three siblings, however, at any point in time, there were two extra hands in their home. Those people usually stayed with the family for a minimum of two or three years and her family would then enroll them into an apprenticeship, such as hair dressing or dress making.

Male hands that stayed with them were also enrolled into carpentry or were supported to learn fitting (mechanics).

In Ghana, the norm was that a young lady expecting a child will usually move from her matrimonial home to her mother’s for support or your mother will move into your house to support her.

However, Adwoa’s mother died early and when she was ready to start a family, she was on her own.

It is becoming common in Ghana to start a family and not have anyone readily available to support the new family with child nurturing and housekeeping.

What was termed as househelps has taken on a new identity. Some call them Nannies, others call them house keepers and for families raising children with disability or special needs, they are called caregivers.

Not only that, there are families in Ghana now needing care for their aged, and so it is common to see people advertise on social media for care services for the aged and persons who are living with stroke and other conditions.

Sika, a Ghanaian living in the United States who shared her experience living abroad, said in the developed countries, caregiving is a big industry. Termed as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), they are considered an integral part of the patient process in healthcare

Also called a nurse aid or a patient care assistant, they help with tasks including turning or moving patient, bathing patients, grooming patients by brushing their teeth, combing their hair, feeding patients and documenting their food and liquid intake, cleaning rooms and bed linens, assisting with some medical procedures, taking care of wounds.

Sika said satirically, that “in the states, you need certification to wipe the bum of an aged person”

As Ghana continues to develop, many, especially those starting new families have expressed the need to professionalise what we termed house help especially for families raising children with disability.

Adwoa, sharing her experiences, said, “I am a working mother and my children are young, I need someone with the right mind frame to take on a career as a professional caregiver who will understand the role I want them to play.”

Adwoa says she has encountered a lot of wrong attitudes from those who come in to work as caregivers for her children, attitudes ranging from using wrong words, to hitting the children when they should not.

“I have developed a welcome pack for anybody who comes into my home to work as a caregiver and in it I am explicit about what your roles and responsibilities are as well as your rights and your rewards,” she added.

Adwoa says she is considering starting a caregiver institute that will teach and train especially the youth to take on careers as caregivers.

She says: “I want to train caregivers who respect my family values, who do not impose their ideas on my children, caregivers who accept that wiping the bum of a child is an important responsibility and do it joyfully.”

In the United States, Nursing Assistants earn on average an hourly rate of 13.50 dollars, In Ghana, the Labour law states that domestic workers are required to be paid not less than the National Daily Minimum wage which is GHS11. 82

Adwoa says my live-in caregivers are given accommodation, food, use of water, electricity and have other privileges of living in the house with my family in addition to paying them between 400 and 500 Ghana Cedis a month.

Most people who work as “house helps” in Ghana are given accommodation, food and other basic provisions in addition to their salary, meanwhile a young man who travels to the city to look for a job as an accountant or marketer for instance, is not given those privileges.

Employment or the lack of it, remains a huge burden on government, while many says the jobs are non-existent, Adwoa says taking on care giving as a job or a career is a first step to solving some of our unemployment challenges and identifying and nurturing hidden talents.

Caregiving is not a menial job, and for some people it comes naturally; their future is caregiving, Adwoa says.

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