Caring for Caregivers

Joan Yap is a Columban Lay Missionary journeying with migrant workers in Taiwan. She explains a little more about her work which sees her advocates for the rights and welfare of caregivers, ensuring their voices are heard to safeguard their health and well-being.

I have been working as a shelter supervisor for many years. During this time, I have met many caregivers who came to our centre for assistance and shelter. Through our one-on-one meeting,  I have had the chance to get to know them.

Here in Taiwan, caregivers are not protected by the international labour standard law. This makes them  vulnerable to abuse.  They don’t have regular rest days; they work for 24 hours, taking care of the elderly, and receive low wages.

We allocate time for personal sharing during our monthly meetings. Through their stories, I am deeply moved how unselfishly they care for old people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other illnesses. They absorb all the negative feelings, including pain and anger, yet sometimes lacking the ability to understand hurtful words becomes an advantage for them because it lessens the stress.

There is also the emotional challenge of being separated from their own families. It is a constant struggle for them. They yearn to be with their families, and they grapple with guilt for not being present to care for them while they devote themselves caring for others. Moreover, the distance can sometimes lead to conflicts and misunderstandings, exacerbating the emotional burden they carry. As human as they are, they sometimes feel tired and need time to recharge.

Once, I asked them about their dreams and aspirations. Many expressed their desire to improve the lives of their families and loved ones. These might seem like simple dreams, but achieving them requires sacrifices which they are willing to make. They also wished for basic things like having a regular rest day, better salary, and considerate employer.

Caregivers work tirelessly to help others, yet sometimes we overlook their own needs. It’s inherent in them to care for others,  so it is important to recognize that they deserve the same care and kindness in return. Self-care is not just beneficial; it is essential to enable them to help others better. We advocate for caregivers’ rights here in Taiwan. Having a day off is not a luxury; it’s a necessity they deserve.

The Hope Worker Centre has been organising and facilitating activities for them. But sometimes this becomes challenging because they do not have regular days off or their available time does not coincide with others. Despite this, we continue to conduct our monthly gatherings, online rosary sessions every Friday, and Mandarin classes. These efforts are our way of honouring their contributions and providing an opportunity to educate them about their rights.

This year, we will unite in the Big Rally to advocate for the rights and welfare of caregivers. Some caregivers may be unable to attend due to work commitments. It’s imperative that we stand alongside with them so ensure that their invaluable contributions are acknowledged and their voices are heard to safeguard their health and well-being as caregivers.

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