The forgotten: Foong with an elderly inmate of Rumah Kasih in Taman Mutiara Barat.
PETALING JAYA: Each week, at least 10 elderly Malaysians end up in old folks homes and that is just the official average, based on centres registered under the Welfare Department.
According to department director-general Datuk Norani Hashim, an average of 536 elderly persons were placed in registered centres each year between 2009 and 2012.
“The actual number could be much higher as some privately run homes are not registered with the department,” she said.
She said between 1993 and last year, a total of 4,968 senior citizens were placed in 211 centres nationwide.
“Perak has the most number with 1,339 in 56 centres, followed by Selangor with 860 in 45 centres but only nine of the centres are under direct supervision of the department,” she added.
In Kuala Lumpur, Foong Peng Lam, the coordinator of Rumah Kasih, which takes in old folks and patients found abandoned in government hospitals, said at least one person was admitted each week.
He said most of the patients were abandoned because their families claimed they could not afford to take care of them.
“Their family members do not provide any form of financial assistance and do not come over to visit,” he said.
The home has taken in over 600 abandoned individuals since its inception in 2000.
“Weak elderly people who had collapsed by the roadside were also brought in by strangers.
“There were also those who were brought in by family members who never return to visit or take them home,” he said.
Foong said the number of abandoned patients had been increasing steadily – from seven in 2000, to the 60 at present.
Apart from Hospital Kuala Lumpur, the home has been taking in patients from Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Hospital Selayang, Tung Shin Hospital, Hospital Seremban, Hospital Sungai Buloh, University Malaya Medical Centre, Hospital Ampang and Hospital Kajang.
He said the hospitals would first try to contact the families, who would usually promise to take the patient home, but never turn up.
“This can go on for up to two months before they bring a patient in.
“Even when we manage to contact the families they usually refuse to take any responsibility,” he added.
Figures from the National Population and Family Development Board, an agency under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, show that about 675,000 elderly parents did not receive financial support from their children in 2004 when the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey was conducted.
Abandoned by loved ones after becoming ‘worthless’
KUALA LUMPUR: S.K. Cheng, 65, spent three months at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), waiting for his family to take him home.
The diabetic collapsed while walking by the roadside in September last year.
He woke up in the hospital and was told that his left leg would have to be amputated below the knee.
“I did not take care of my children when they were younger. That is why they do not want me now. I could not afford to take care of them well because I did not have enough money,” he lamented at the Rumah Kasih in Cheras, his current home.
Cheng said he used to work in a coffee shop and lived with his wife and three children.
He said his wife passed away 10 years ago and his son and daughters soon moved on with their lives elsewhere.
They came to visit him at the hospital once, but that was the last time he saw them.
Another inmate, also surnamed Cheng, said she was also left at HKL for nearly three months before she was sent to the home.
The woman, in her 70’s, was bedridden after suffering a stroke.
Her son, in his 40s, did not want to take her home because he could not afford the medical bills.
“She used to work odd jobs and was living with her son before she became ill.
“Her son just dumped her, expecting the hospital to care for his mother,” said a caretaker at the home.
While most Rumah Kasih patients are elderly there is also a 36-year old woman known only as Chan.
She spent six weeks in Hospital Selayang without anyone in her family visiting her.
“I used to be happy. I was working as a cashier and was married with three young children.
“When I suffered a stroke and became paralysed, my husband left me at the hospital and left my kids with my father,” she said.
“He said he could not take me. Now that I cannot work anymore I am worthless and they do not want me.”
Contributed by P Aruna, Farik Zolkepli, Zora Chan, and Vanes Devindran The Star/ANN
Go see your parents… or else!