Chinese New Year is officially here and this is a time where families near and abroad will gather together to ring in the Lunar New Year. However, in Malaysia, there are some elderly parents who have been abandoned in senior citizens’ homes as their families do not even bother bringing them back for that all-important reunion dinner.
Elderly parents abandoned by their children in care homes
In a report by SCMP, they shed some light on elder abuse and how abandoned parents feel as their families neglect them even during this festive season. A 91-year-old retiree known as TC Lam is a resident at one of these homes located outside Kuala Lumpur but he says that he is forced to remain in the home with other residents who have been similarly neglected.
“I wanted to come to the home. When I stayed with my son and his wife I only got scoldings, complaints. I am old, I forget many things, but they will always be upset even if it is a small thing. Once they left me at home and disappeared for three days, later I found out they went on a holiday. Nobody talked to me or told me anything,” he said. How could you treat your father like that?!
Lam sadly says that he hasn’t heard from his family in eight months and while he was eagerly waiting for them to come and pick him up for Chinese New Year, he didn’t even receive a single phone call from his son. “I don’t know what I did,” the old man said.
Richard See, a care-home manager near Kuala Lumpur said that more people were in the workforce these days as they had to deal with the high cost of living which means that they did not have time to take care of their ageing parents. “The cost of living is so high, one person working is insufficient to pay off car, house, education loans. So everyone in a family is working. If you keep an older parent at home, who can take care of them?” he explained.
“Some people feel they cannot handle this and have no choice to put them in a home that provides good service. If the government wants to implement this law, they must take into consideration the financial capabilities of modern middle-class families,” See added.
While there are adult children out there who still care for their elderly parents, some of them will simply dump their parents at a home and even give fake contact numbers as they don’t want to shoulder any responsibilities. “In many cases, they will cry, call out for their kids, but what to do? We can only try to console them, attend to their needs, treat them like our own parents, what else can we do?” said See.
“The kids of some older folks who have been left behind – they don’t even come over to visit. Some are highly educated and in well-paying jobs but can’t even call to check on their parents and haven’t paid fees in months. One of my residents is 98 and cries every day for her family, but they have not checked on her in a year. I don’t understand how people can do this,” said See.
Law against Elder Abuse in Malaysia
Currently, there is no law in Malaysia that criminalises neglect against the elderly and they are only protected by the Domestic Violence Act, which defines them as “incapacitated adults”, and the Penal Code.
While our government is in the midst of looking into laws against elder abuse, this could only be drafted by 2020 as studies are still being carried out. There are currently no official statistics on this issue but University Malaya’s Prevent Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative (Peace) hypothesises that in rural areas, one in 20 elders are abused while in urban cities, experts presume that the number is close to one in 10 elders.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waythamoorthy said, “It is really inappropriate for any child to neglect or abuse his or her parents and I think, if there is a need, we can have a law to protect those senior citizens and to ensure that their children could not simply wash their hands of their responsibility to take care of the parents.”
As Malaysia is moving towards an ageing population by 2020, these problems of neglect and elder abuse are not going away anytime soon. In fact, Malaysia’s Department of Statistics says that by 2040, youths and the older population will be nearly equal.
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