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IT'S easy to get confused about the roles of a caregiver and that of a maid (domestic worker), especially if it’s your first time hiring a professional caregiver or even a private nurse. You may not be not sure about how to instruct and what to expect. Or maybe your list of duties and expectations exceed reality that even you can’t fulfil.

Since I started writing for this column 10 years ago, I’ve received many questions about caregiving, which include how and where to hire private nurses and caregivers as well as maids who could be trained as caregivers, hence doubling their roles. I’ve also heard stories of how people treat private nurses and caregivers as though they’re maids, demanding them to cook and clean for the entire family too.

While there are no hard and fast rules or regulations regarding this, you should still take time to consider the work that goes into it. The possibilities and permutations of what needs to be done are numerous. At the end of the day, it boils down to individual needs, expectations and affordability.

People should understand that there are big differences in their duties and what they’ve been trained for. You shouldn’t think that just because you’re paying more for a professional caregiver or private nurse that you can squeeze your money’s worth out of the deal.

Caregivers and private nurses care for their clients literally from A to Z in terms of administering medications and with things that are done at the hospital. In addition, they help bathe their clients, clean up after that, prepare light meals, and even accompany them for their doctor’s appointment.

They’d also be well versed in the right techniques to move and carry a person without injuring them, doing basic exercises and follow-up activities as suggested by physiotherapists.

Most of their time and attention are focused on the person in need. Whatever clean-up they do is for that person’s immediate space. They aren’t obliged to take care of the entire family even though some of them go beyond their call of duty, like cooking extra food.


A maid’s duty would mainly be to cook and clean for the family in general. Sometimes they’d even care for an ailing loved one or those with special needs in addition to tending to the garden and pets. A lot depends on the needs of that household.

There are people who hire maids to be caregivers to family members who are unwell and even bedridden. It may not be a critical situation; just a need for someone to be there all the time so that your loved one is always well cared for in terms of meals and cleanliness.

You’ve got to decide on your priorities. For some, it would be care for the ailing one first. Cooking and cleaning come second. For others, caring for that person in need is just an extra duty because the situation isn’t dire.

You can definitely train someone to do things that are necessary for an ailing loved one. In fact, if you were the primary caregiver with family and friends who step in every now and then, you’d be the one doing all this. You’d also have learnt many things along the way too as nurses and doctors would’ve showed you how to care for your loved one.

This could be anything from taking blood pressure, checking temperature and glucose levels, administering insulin injections, changing and cleaning a stoma or colon bag, cleaning and dressing wounds, and even changing bedsheets for people who are bedridden. There’s so much to do on a daily basis! Different people have different needs. Even those who are trained would still have to adjust what they know to suit their loved ones or client.


Sometimes it takes more than one person to do the job. Being a caregiver is a tough call especially if you have to do it alone. Any assistance is deeply appreciated. The ideal situation would be to have a combination of help from all quarters.

In many instances, identifying the duties of a caregiver, private nurse and/or maid is something that can be worked out. You can have one or all at the same time depending on your needs and budget. At some point, their duties may overlap.

The advantage of having outside assistance in the form of a private nurse or professional caregiver is that they can get time off and return fresh the next day. Live-in maids sometimes don’t have that luxury to re-charge. Some of them don’t even understand why they should do things in a certain way and end up doing things their way when no one is looking.

Just remember that when anything or anyone is overloaded, something would give. Would you want your loved one’s care compromised? When hiring someone to help you care for your ailing loved one, you really want the best there is.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang (SCSOA). She can be reached at [email protected].

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