06 December 2011
Children have resorted to dumping their parents amid declining family values. Several NGOs and religious bodies believe that fostering stronger family ties remains the best solution. Punitha Kumar and Adrian Lai report
ABOUT 675,000 or one out of three people, aged 60 and above, are abandoned and do not receive financial support from their children.
These elderly parents are deprived of proper care according to the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey.
The survey, conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), included those who were staying in welfare homes and those abandoned in hospitals — based on the 2010 Population and Housing Census.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said children were obliged to care for their elderly parents just as their parents had looked after them when they were young.
“Filial piety is inherent in our culture and we hold it in high regard. Rather than a law to punish children who abandon their parents, my ministry believes in engagement via advocacy — by promoting close family relationships and care for the elderly.”
Shahrizat said there were homes for the elderly under the ministry’s purview but children were obliged to fulfil their filial responsibilities because parents preferred to be cared for by their children.
University of Malaya Medical Centre consultant psychiatrist associate professor Dr Jesjeet Singh Gill said some children opted to abandon their parents because of unhealthy relationships with them.
“Having experienced trauma during childhood from alcoholic or drug-dependent parents are some of the reasons.
“Resentment from a parent’s divorce or remarrying process could also cause abandonment of elderly parents.”
As of June this year, there were 1,936 senior citizens in nine homes under the Welfare Department. The ministry also runs 22 senior citizens day care centres nationwide. Last year, the department registered 16 private welfare non-governmental organisations nationwide, which houses 881 senior citizens.
A report by the Department of Statistics last year showed that there are 1.1 million males and 1.2 million females aged 60 years and above in the country.
There have also been suggestions that Malaysia should emulate Taiwan, which, two months ago, passed a law imposing a maximum fine of NT$200,000 (RM20,740) or up to one year in prison for those found abandoning their parents.
Singapore has enacted a law on elderly abuse while China is still in talks on having a similar law.
However, Sisters in Islam’s (legal, advocacy and public education) manager Suri Kempe feels that punishment will not deter children from dumping their parents in hospitals or old folks homes.
“What should be done is a proper study to identify the root causes of why children are abandoning their parents. Positive measures should be identified to enable a healthy relationship between parents and their children.”
All Women’s Action Society (Awam) president Ho Yock Lin said in cases of children who were unable to provide for their parents because of financial constraints, the state government should step in with proper measures to take care of the elderly.
“The elderly always have high medical expenses. The state government should provide healthcare subsidies to ease the financial burden, especially among low-income families.”
Malaysia Hindu Sangam president R.S. Mohan Shan said parents were revered in Hinduism, citing the phrase “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” which mean importance is given to a mother, father, teacher and God.
“This shows that parents are given more importance than God and this is stated in our teachings.
“Children who disrespect their parents will eventually receive the same treatment. This is karma, as what goes around, comes around.”
SOURCE: The New Straits Times
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