Granny nannies

This new class of caregiver is booming, and quite unregulated
By Katie Engelhart
When Esther Heckbert told her mother she wanted to leave the Philippines to work as a babysitter abroad, her mother was leery. “She said, ‘babysitter? You’re done university!’ ” The two were folding laundry at their home in Isabela. Esther, who has a degree in business administration, had high hopes. “I said, a babysitter abroad can make a lot of money. From there, you can upgrade yourself: you can get citizenship.” For decades, thousands with the same profile—young, female, Filipino—have come to Canada to work as babysitters. Twenty-five years since arriving, Esther has helped rear dozens of Canadian tots: first as a nanny and then as the owner of a nursery school. But a few years ago, she sensed a changing wind.

She left babysitting behind, sought retraining, and now works under a more whimsical title: granny nanny.

She joins a growing rank of babysitters-turned-eldercare workers: a nod to shifting demographics. In 2008, just under 14 per cent of the Canadian population was over 65; it will be more than 25 per cent by 2044. At the same time, seniors are increasingly shunning the option once pressed on them: nursing homes. Now, most care to frail, older adults is provided outside facilities, says Norah Keating, human ecology professor at the University of Alberta. As more seniors stay home, we’re racing to import and train professionals to care for them. That dash has created a new class of caregivers, many of whom are undertrained, unregulated and unprotected—and with this a new set of problems.


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