Domestic helpers: Maid In Heaven


A car crash and an ailing father, this was what bothered me for the past three weeks at least.

I don’t want to talk too much about the car accident I faced. Though expensive, I don’t see it a big deal. Apart from my wallet, nothing else was hurt. I must only say, if you’re travelling along Bedok South Ave 1, onto the Laguna Flyover that links you to the ECP… be very, very careful.


You will encounter a sharp turn that forces you to apply your brakes. If you do this on a rainy day, a speed of 60km/h can cause your wheels to lock, sending you into a spin. That was what happened to me.

The day after the crash, I received a call from Changi General Hospital. It was a doctor. Over the phone, he explained to me how my father had come to them via emergency services because of an inability to urinate.

My father was diagnosed with an enlarged prostrate. To treat this, doctors have first to open up the urinary tract. This is done by inserting a thick tube into his penis, tunnelling through the urinary tract, into the bladder. Connected to the end of the tube, is a bag that collects the pee. Yes, it hurts.

Now, you must also understand that my father is a stroke victim of over 20 years. Already he has an inability to use limbs on the left part of his body. With this pee bag, he has even greater difficulty moving around and transferring himself from bed to wheelchair, and from wheelchair to toilet.

For the past three weeks, I have needed to transfer him from bed to wheelchair every morning before going to work. After work, I would have to rush home to transfer him to the toilet and then back to bed. For a good half of the day, he is unable to do almost anything else. He has to hold his bodily waste until I come home.

You can imagine the smell.

You know… for over 20 years, whenever I’m out having a good dinner or a meal, I feel very awkward. I think about my dad at home eating tingkat meals. When I’m on holidays having a good time, it disturbs me also.

For the past 3 weeks I felt even worse. I couldn’t eat anything in peace really… how could I? How could I even be doing work when he’s suffering at home? When there’s so much housework at home to be done, when he needs showering, when he can’t go to bed and rest when he needs to?

I feel doubly awkward at work, because I can’t be taking too much time off. My personal problems are my personal problems – I cannot let it affect my professional life.

You have to laugh, smile and joke along even when your mind is laden with these problems.

My dad and me live alone together. It has been like this for 20 years, but now… I needed help.

Almost all the nursing homes I called were fully occupied (and prohibitively expensive anyway). There was no other consideration – we had to have a maid.

Ms. Phyu Phyu Lwin arrived at our home last Saturday and you cannot imagine the amount of psychological weight lifted off my mind. She knew from day 1 what to do. She was advising me on how to prepare my father’s bed. She suggested what cleaning tools and liquids I should get. She promptly worked on each nook and cranny of the house, cleaning and packing for the last 3 days.

She had no qualms cleaning up after my father and even can speak a little bit of Chinese with him.

I have a gargantuan amount of gratefulness for her help.

In Singapore, we’re very lucky to be able to have the services of domestic helpers. When I was living in the UK, friends told me you don’t have the services of “maids” unless you lived in Buckingham Palace. In Hong Kong, maids don’t live-in because the houses are so tiny. I hope Singaporeans don’t take this domestic help for granted. Because one day, when their countries achieve economic success, we’ll have less and less of these services.

With Ms. Lwin helping out the household, 20 years worth of awkwardness, stress and relationship strain with my father was lifted away. I wish I had hired a helper’s assistance earlier.

Anyway, I’d like to give thanks to all my friends who stood by and actually helped out in the past few weeks:

Thank you to Edmund Sim and Kiwi Pang especially – who got down and dirty, helping to clean up the most vile and unhygienic when I was busy at work.

Thank you to my colleagues who had to deal with my grumpy moods 😉

Thank you to the helpline staff from the Ministry of Manpower for dealing with my dramatic emails and persistent phone calls.




2 thoughts on “Domestic helpers: Maid In Heaven

  1. Hey Ben, sorry to hear that you have had an aweful few weeks. Glad to hear that your dad’s day to day discomfort have been alleviated with the help of a maid and the weight have been lifted off your shoulders. Most importantly, you are in one piece from the car cash. Take care and catch you sometime!:)

  2. Ben, it didn’t cross my mind that sons/ men would feel guilty/ burdened. It seems like daughters are usually the ones who care emotionally and provide majority of the tangible help while sons do the ferrying and provide finances.

    My dad is 64 and my mom 59. Mom is still in good shape and still bouncy. Dad’s health is going downhill. His processing speed seems to be slowing down. His hearing seems to be going off. He had several conditions last 3 weeks: rashes, flu, cataract, rashes, broken skin and then rashes again. Over the last several years, I grappled with calling HDB to ask what I should do with the falling tiles in the kitchen, deciding to get a new gas hob or not or should we switch to induction hobs, shopping for another dining table, dealing with Dad’s stubborn skin conditions, mom’s persistent cough, mum’s CPF, Dad’s CPF, Mum’s transport concession claim, etc. If one breaks the chores apart, they seem easy. Not when a few of them come in at one time after a long/ bad day at work.

    Often, things do not end there. After you have decided to go for a gas hob, you have to decide where to get it, which brand is best, when the technician should come. After you discovered that your dad is receiving less CPF than he ought to, you have to do the sums carefully and teach him how to speak to his boss about it. Then you have to see that the shortfall is being paid for and that subsequently, the same mistake isn’t made. After you have purchased the aloe vera gel for your dad, you have to tell him ” This is aloe vera gel. Good for skin. Apply liberally” and you have to do follow-ups and see if the gel is working and if he is using the gel religiously.

    You seem to be the “originator” of everything. Unless you “issue” a stern instruction, gels, creams, oils aren’t used religiously (if any at all) . Unless you are present, no one goes anywhere. Unless you lead, nothing gets done. I empathise with you, friend.

    As the saying goes, ” Whatever is good/ correct, it is difficult to do.”

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