Sun, Feb 03, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Caregiver says horizons broadened

Staff writer, with CNA

Yusni, an Indonesian woman who worked as a caregiver in Taiwan for nine years, poses for a photograph during an interview in Taiwan on Jan. 22.

Photo: CNA

When Yusni graduated from high school in West Java at the age of 17, she faced a tough job market with few openings that would allow her to help support her family or save money to go to college.

Yusni moved to Taiwan to work as a caregiver after hearing from a friend about her experience in the nation.

“The person I am now is much different from the person I was before,” said Yusni, 26, on Tuesday last week as she looked back over her nine years in Taiwan.

Speaking in Mandarin, Yusni — who like many Indonesians goes by a single name — said that when she first arrived, she had no direction in life except to work hard to send money home.

It was only when she made more Taiwanese friends and took advantage of being in Taiwan to enrich herself that her outlook on life began to change, she said.

After making Taiwanese friends and having discussions with them on “sensitive” topics that were not talked about among her Indonesian friends, Yusni said she became more of a critical thinker, she said.

For example, when Taiwanese friends questioned Islamic teachings, she would think about whether what they said was justified, something she never did in the past, because she had always been taught to accept her religious teachings, she said.

In her first four years in Taiwan, Yusni had few chances to make friends with Taiwanese, because she had to work almost around the clock caring for an elderly woman with dementia and whose children lived abroad, she said.

That changed in the fifth year when the woman was put in a nursing home, which enabled her to have a regular day off every month, instead of a day off every three months as was the case previously, she said.

By that time, her relationship with the person in her care was excellent, but it did not start out that way, she said.

Communication was challenging because the woman spoke with a strong Chinese accent and she knew very little Mandarin, Yusni said.

However, they became close after Yusni learned how to better accommodate the challenging behavioral problems associated with the disease.

The woman passed away in February 2017 after seven years in Yusni’s care.

When an elderly woman she was hired to care for died of an illness in May the same year, Yusni told her agent she wanted to go back to Indonesia.

However, the sorrow felt by the late woman’s husband over the loss of his wife made her change her mind, she said.

“Grandpa’s children all went back to their homes after grandma’s funeral service. He locked himself in his room and cried,” Yusni said. “I was thinking: ‘It would be very unkind of me to leave grandpa under the circumstances.’ So I stayed.”

In the past 22 months, Yusni has accompanied the now 95-year-old man on visits to many places that are meaningful to him.

Although there was still a year remaining on her contract, Yusni is to return to Indonesia to work, hoping to preserve her memory of the elderly man while he was still healthy and active, she said.

Despite the pain of saying goodbye to her friends in Taiwan, Yusni said she is looking forward to embarking on a new life.

Her native-level proficiency in Mandarin earned Yusni job offers from two companies based in Indonesia before she returned and she finalized a position with one of them last month.

However, the opportunities that await her will not erase the memories of her years in Taiwan, she said.

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