Care home officer: Not just a job, it’s about giving back.
Unsung heroes take care of elderly in welfare home
Going from enforcing the law to caring for senior citizens was a shift in culture.
A very different approach was required.
In their former jobs, they were used to giving orders and getting immediate results.
When they said jump, their charges did so immediately.
Working in a care home for the elderly now means results take more time.
Former prison guard Bohari Suri, 63, told The New Paper: "Last time, I could be stern with the prisoners under my care. "Now, I'm soft spoken and very, very patient."
For the past five years, Mr Bohari has been a welfare officer at the Pertapis Senior Citizens Fellowship Home at the void deck of Block 222, Toa Payoh Lorong 8.
It was an immediate transition as soon as Mr Bohari retired after 31 years in the Singapore Prison Service.
He retired with two objectives in mind - to stay active and do good deeds.
The home provided the perfect opportunity.
Mr Bohari is one of four male welfare officers taking care of 20 residents in the men's wing at the home.
There are four women officers who take care of the home's 18 female residents..
According to the deputy head of the home, Mr Salleh Jetty, 61 the home was set up to provide shelter to the elderly destitute.
"Our residents are here because they have family issues," he explained.
"This includes estrangement," he added.
Mr Salleh has been working at the home for 12 years.
"Whatever problems they might have in their personal lives, when they come here, we are one family," he said.
He estimates that the average resident's stay in the home is between six and seven years. But very few move on to live somewhere else.
"It can be said that when they are here, for most, it is for the rest of their lives," Mr Salleh told TNP matter-of-factly.
There is one officer on duty at any one time. Part of their responsibilities includes helping to serve meals to the residents.
Pertapis buys the meals from a caterer, which are then delivered to the home.
Life in the home is fairly laid-back for the residents.
Their every need is taken care of.
"I am happy here because the level of care is good," said resident Sani Ali, 80, who has been at the home for six months.
"They help me take my medication, and if I'm sick they help send me to the polyclinic... I don't mind staying here forever," added the widower.
The welfare officers have to do things that ordinary folk may balk at, such as helping to clean up residents who may have soiled themselves. But this is par for the course.
The three welfare officers that TNP spoke to said the hardest part of the job was learning to be patient over seemingly easy tasks.
"The residents are fairly old, so they are a bit forgetful - and stubborn," said welfare officer Harun Mohammad Amin.
"I have learned that if I need them to do something, for example to change their shirt, I need to keep at it for some time," he added with a laugh.
The 69-year-old retired police officer has been a welfare officer with Pertapis for six years.
For Mr Harun and indeed Mr Bohari, this is not just a job. It's about giving back.
"These old folks, deserve to be taken care of. That's the least we can do," said Mr Bohari.