24/06/2024 10:25 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.

By: Assoc Prof Dr Anna Azriati Che Azmi & Dr Lee Wan Ling

Caregivers – they are the backbone of our communities, providing essential support to those in the older population.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysia’s ageing population – people aged 65 and above – is estimated to increase to 14.5 per cent in 2040. The need for caregivers to care for this ageing population will increase as the population of this group increases. Yet, caregivers – the people who look after our aging loved ones – are often undervalued and underappreciated.

Our society tends to equate worth with financial compensation. The higher the pay, the higher the education, the more status and value are given to a person. Caregiving, however, is a profession that rarely comes with a hefty paycheck. This creates a perception that it’s a lesser job, somehow less demanding than others.

But make no mistake, caregiving is physically taxing. It can involve assisting with mobility, transfers and personal hygiene. Caregivers often work from home or in an institutionalised setting, isolated from the professional world.

Emotional toll

The emotional toll of caregivers is equally significant. Caregivers witness the people they care for decline, grapple with difficult behaviours, and often manage their own grief and anxiety. Unlike many office jobs, caregiving doesn’t offer a clean break at the end of the day.

The weight of responsibility can be immense. The person they care for may be experiencing illness, memory loss, or even become abusive.

It’s time to become more aware of this outdated view. Caregivers are the glue that holds families and communities together. They allow individuals with older adults to maintain their dignity and independence. They also allow children of the ageing population to focus on their jobs and family.

Caregivers also provide tireless efforts; they support the medical community with care for the elderly that nurses and doctors may not be able to provide. This will help reduce the burden on healthcare systems and institutions that would be astronomical.

Raising the value of caregiving

So, how do we elevate the value of caregiving?

Firstly, increase financial incentives, such as a good entry level pay, and offer better financial security, such as government social security contribution or private insurance, for those into caregiving.

A recent newspaper article reported that many caregivers at welfare and senior homes earn below RM2,000 per month, which is far below that in countries like Japan and those in Europe. These financial initiatives would go a long way in recognising the contribution of caregivers and their value as a profession.

Secondly, making caregiving an attractive and viable career prospect will help to elevate the value and status of the caregiving vocation.

Malaysia needs to consider the benefits of a standardised caregiving curriculum that will facilitate quality assurance and monitoring of the care industry nationwide. It also enables proper credentialing including micro-credentialing of skill subsets from beginner to advanced caregiving.

Staged credentialing according to skills complexity should be commensurate with pay rise and a better career pathway for advancement that will attract and retain human capital of trained care workers, in particularly, among the younger Malaysian adults. Standardisation of curriculum and credentialing need endorsement and support by the government and industry.

Appreciating the value of caregiving

We must help our societies to appreciate the value of caregiving of older people through intergenerational practice. Have more activities that create opportunities for the younger and older people to offer their positive resources to each other and those around them.

A study by Canell and Caskie in 2022 found that emerging adults (18–25 years) experiencing quality contact with older people show a greater willingness to provide care as they have a lesser ageist attitude – the negative stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination against people because of their age.

Caregivers themselves will continue to value the service they render if their wellbeing is taken care of. We need to address the emotional and social needs of caregivers. Support groups and mental health resources are crucial to prevent their burnout. Caregiving courses should include content on coping strategies to manage the stress and the strain borne by the caregivers.

Let’s shift the narrative. Caregiving is a noble profession that requires immense skill, dedication and compassion. It’s a job worthy of respect and admiration. It is a job that enables the community to prosper because it provides support to vulnerable groups, especially the ageing community.

Malaysia needs more of her citizens to value caregiving by taking on the role of caregivers as each one of us will age and need care in the near future.


Assoc Prof Dr Anna Azriati Che Azmi is with the Faculty of Business and Economics, Universiti Malaya, & Dr Lee Wan Ling is with the Department of Nursing Science, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)