AYODEJI OLATOREGUN Nigeria’s Numero Uno Caregiver

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Soft spoken, with a gentle mien, Ayodeji Olatoregun is the brain behind Quendon Genesis Limited, an outfit that specialises in taking care of the elderly and those living with dementia. He is a passionate natural caregiver with a vision to care for the elderly from 65 years and above within the comfort of their homes. With over 40 years in the field, the Thames Valley University trained health specialist and former Registered Manager with National Health Service (NHS), UK believes in creating an environment that is caring, safe and above all, kind for the elderly. Olatoregun, the Ibadan-based caregiver tells Funke Olaode why caring for the aged in their lifetime is more rewarding than lavish funerals after their demise.

If one’s parental exploits were to be a model for one’s career choice, Ayodeji Olatoregun, the managing director of Quendon Genesis Limited would probably be in the classroom as a tutor. Right from her early life, she had carved a niche for herself to be the best and being unique in her chosen field, which has paid off. Born in the early 50s into the family of teachers. Her father, the late Chief Joseph Uwagbue Olatoregun, a native of Ifon in Ondo State was a Senior tutor at St. Andrews College, Oyo in the old Western Region while her mother, Mrs. Deborah Olatoregun was the first female pupil teacher in Owo Province. A well-grounded and educated family, Olatoregun’s siblings are high fliers in diverse professions, including medicine.

Olatoregun has evolved over the years in her career which she started in Ondo State before moving to England in the early 80s. Her journey into the medical profession began in Akure, the Ondo State capital where she enrolled as the pioneer student of the newly established College of Technology. There, she studied Laboratory Science. She later delved into banking working with Savanna Bank, earning money, building her confidence, creating a career and pursuing a future ambition.

“My parents were teachers but I never wanted to be a teacher because I am very inquisitive. I have always been very inquisitive. I love to know more about human beings. After my training as a Lab Technician, I joined Savanna Bank. And I was a medical service aid, because at that time we had a medical department. We had a lot of hospitals that were attached to Savanna Bank. So the staff would go to the nearest hospital to their house that is attached to them. And we are in charge of the bills, vetting of the bills, and checking the doctors. That aroused my interest. I worked in Savanna Bank for seven good years,” she said.

Having charted a path for herself in the medical line, Olatoregun moved to England in the early 80s where she landed her first job as a Registered Manager with National Health Service (NHS), UK. But prior to that, she had trained at the Thames Valley University, Faculty of Health and Human Services where she acquired different certificates in health related fields.

“I started doing all these diploma courses that are related to psychiatry. I was interested in the elderly people, I just love working with elderly people, asking them questions. Then I finally went to Thames Valley University in London where I had a certificate in psychiatry and elderly care at the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences. I spent three years there. And that was when I was a registered manager with the UK National Health Services (NHS).”

As a certified NHS officer, Olatoregun’s job entails caring for the elderly people and their day to day activities, supporting them because of their vulnerability. “You look after their emotional and mental fitness. We work with the social services, we work with the police, and we work with the community. I also worked in elderly homes as a manager as well.”

A well grounded individual, being a woman of colour in a white dominated environment has its challenges. But Olatoregun was equal to the task; she was prepared to respond to someone in need particularly the elderly, rise to their challenges and allay the fears that are often associated with old age as well as racism.

“My experience working in the UK was fantastic although because of my colour, there were challenges at the initial stage. But the passion for my calling kept me going. At one stage, I wanted to divert to do something different but I met some of these English people that were so nice, and the encouragement was there, so I had to continue moving on. Again, in Europe, they are so passionate about their elderly. Now they have a plan for their elderly people; 55 years and above is what I was registered for. The children don’t have much say when the government comes in. If you have a house, some will sell their properties and put them in a residential home where they are safe, protecting them and making sure their finances are not abused. They are well protected because there is a plan in place. And the policies and everything soothes the elderly very well. You cannot work in the care sector especially with the elderly or the junior ones without being credit checked. Credit check means they have to send you to an authority that will vet it, that you have never had any criminal case before, and that you can work with these elderly people. Elderly people in the UK are entitled to social services and the police will be involved.”

It was extremely an easy decision to make when in 2014 after an eventful 28 years in the UK, Olatoregun returned to Nigeria. Why did she return?

“I left because I was tired. I just have the passion of coming to Nigeria. I’ve got a lot of friends here. My both parents had passed on. So I just sat down one day and said, I have contributed my quota in the UK. Let me go to Nigeria and see how I can replicate what I had done in the UK. I came and found that there was no policy in place for elderly people. There was nothing in place for them. That is why you see some people employing house help that are killing them, taking their money, and doing whatever they want to do.”

Practicing kindness, patience and helpfulness for the elderly is natural to Olatoregun and in 2014, she established Quendon Genesis Limited (QG Care Service), a domiciliary caregiving outfit that specialises in taking care of the elderly and dementia, aged from 65 years and above within the comfort of their homes. Throwing light on the meaning behind the name ‘Quendon Genesis Limited.’ “I took Genesis because I love reading the bible. I just wanted to make it Genesis, but my son just came up with the alphabet of all our names.”

The elderly are fragile. They are vulnerable. For Olatoregun and her team, the true test of a person’s character is what they do when there is no one around. And this is what she has practiced through her company in the last eight years. With Quendon Genesis Limited, her clients can sleep with both eyes closed because their elderly ones are safe and secured in the loving and caring hands of Quendon staffers.

“I trained my staff in an act of kindness and compassion in this job because it is a profession. I gave them a lot of books to read about home care, a lot of food hygiene and a lot of communication books because you must be able to communicate as a good caregiver. You must be compassionate about the job; you must like the elderly people. I had one client for six months and it was somebody who got to know me in England that introduced me to this family. And he was even the one paying because he told them not to pay, that he just wanted them to see what I am capable of doing. I can tell you confidently that we have tried our best over the last eight years getting referrals because of our company’s track record of excellence.”

Placing someone under the care of total strangers in the name of caregiving can be daunting, Olatoregun said she is different. “Security has always been an issue. But what makes us different is that I do my check before I recruit. After the interview, the guarantor has to produce an international passport, or driver’s license or National Identification Card original before I could recruit. And after the recruitment, I start the training. I am eternally grateful to the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan for their support. They train my staff for me. All the doctors, the Chief Medical Officer, they all supported me and that made a difference. And I ensured I do my spot check unannounced every week or every month. It depends on the situation. Unannounced spot check is when nobody is aware that either I or my coordinator is coming to visit. So we check all the log books, because every day the staff has to write books for me. Their feeding, personal care, outing activities, medication taken, the family that visits, how they spend the money. And if they need medical care, we arrange for the doctor. There are some that we make arrangements for to be taken to church every Sunday. Being old does not mean you can’t live a better life. There are some packages, you have to travel and the carer has to go with them. And since I started I have never had any incident or crisis with staff stealing or maltreating my patients.”

Talking extensively about domiciliary care which she provides, Olatoregun said it is the best. “Before I left the UK, the government met and decided that it is better to look after these elderly people in their homes because they are very conversant with everything in their environment. They know their neighbours, they know who is a new face, they know who has been living there. So, that is why I prefer to do domiciliary care because they are much more comfortable in their own homes than taking them to elderly care home, where you will put introverts and extroverts in the same room. It does not work like that. And they work all their life, they go into this home and start living a regimented life. They wake up at the same time, they eat the same food, and they don’t have friends, no variety, and no activities.”
At Quendon Genesis Limited, there are packages to meet individual’s needs. “Our package is reasonable. I have got a lot of packages, it depends on what people want. I have weekends, Monday to Friday, I have live-in 24 hours a day and I have a rotational basis, that will be about two or three staff working in the house with that person. One staff must be with that client 24/7 and no Christmas, no New Year, No Easter or Ileya. My staff are always there because they have their off duties. So once I have signed my contract, it is 24 hours, somebody must be with my client.”

Her commitment to her profession has seen the profile of her company soar. She has catered for high profile clientele ranging from top judicial officers, governors, senators and so on. “I have retired as Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I have judges, doctors, I have parents of governors, parents of ministers and a lot of professors.

In retrospect, running the company over the last eight years has been rewarding.

“I have worked with some beautiful families that understand what I stand for- that my paramount aim is to protect their elderly people, security wise considering what is happening in Nigeria now with maids killing or running away with valuables. If your parents are with me, you are 100 per cent sure that they are safe. I believe our elderly people need to be taken care of. And that is why the government should put up policies and should stop paying lip service to all these things and hit the ground running. The Ministries: the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Women Affairs and then the Office of the Vice-President should look at this critical aspect of our society.”

As this reporter rounded off the conversation, it was obvious that Olatoregun’s calling isn’t a misstep judging by her passion and commitment.

“I am fulfilled, very fulfilled. I am happy I am in Nigeria. It is a passion and it is a calling. I don’t need to be a pastor but this is a calling upon my life. My mother died in my arms. I love elderly people because you learn a lot from them. One day by the grace of God, we are going to be old. I don’t believe in throwing parties, taking expensive event centers, celebrating the life of these people you never cared for while they were alive. I don’t believe in it because caring for the aged in their lifetime is more rewarding than a lavish funeral after their departure,” she said