Sometimes, good to put elderly in old folks’ home

Photo for illustration purposes.

This is Part two of three of a feature series on ageing and its socio-economic impact

IN tandem with modernisation, communities around the world have experienced significant transformations in many aspects including societal and familial structures as well as lifestyles.

One such example is the care of the elderly. Traditionally, once they were grown up, children were expected to fully shoulder the responsibility of caring for their ageing parents or family members.

However, today, the typical family structure is different. Women have become more participative in the workforce and it is not just a man’s role to be the breadwinner of the family.

Most families have two working parents. Therefore, juggling a full spectrum of responsibilities including managing a full-time career and having young children to take care of can be a struggle in itself, without the added duty of caring for one’s elderly parents.

As such, there appears to be a rising trend of residential old age homes, especially in urban regions as the need for such services increases.

Nevertheless, the idea of sending one’s parents or older family members to a nursing home is still rather controversial here.

The notion is well-received by some people who hold the view that it is acceptable to seek such support services when needed as long as the decision is in the best interest of the elderly persons and proper care is provided at a suitable facility. On the other hand, others still frown upon the idea.

New Sarawak Tribune spoke to several members of the public to hear their views on the matter.

Nicholas

Administrative officer Nicholas Jeffery, 40, considered old age homes as a necessary progression in society, unpleasant as the concept might be to some.

“The society we live in now demands a culture of servitude and workaholism to the point of little to no personal life outside of work. For new families, both parents are working and juggling their careers on top of the imposed perception of society to bear children and raise them.

“There is just simply no more time to juggle work, financial responsibilities, household responsibilities, time to spend with children and time to spend with their partners,” he said.

Lesser of two evils

With all this in mind, he pointed out that there was often not much time to take care of ageing parents, so old age homes had become the lesser of two evils.

He said that if the carers – usually the sons or daughters – were capable and willing to care for their parents for the remaining days of their lives, then this was all the better.

However, he believed that in situations where the carers were finding it an increasingly daunting task to manage this on top of all their other obligations and responsibilities, it would then be up to them to decide if an old age home might be a better choice.

Nicholas said in certain cases, sending the elderly to an old age home would be in their best interest.

“Such cases include those where the old folk may not be getting the care they need or they are in an abusive situation or if they are ignored or unappreciated. If caring for the ageing parents is no longer conducive for both the carers and for the elderly, then it may be better to consider placing them in an old age home.

“The employed carers there will have the appropriate training to tend to the physical, mental and social needs of the elderly. I think there will be adequate equipment and procedures in place to assist elderly people with medical conditions,” he added.

Siddiq

Public relations specialist Siddiq Sulaiman, 35, felt that residential care facilities were generally a good idea as they helped to provide a home for the elderly and, to a certain extent, help families who were struggling to cope.

“However, some people may take advantage of these old age homes as a way to ‘dump’ their elderly parents or give up their responsibility of taking care of their elderly parents,” he lamented.

He said children should not be encouraged to send their parents to nursing homes. He said children should take care of their aged parents as their parents had similarly nurtured them when they were younger.

“Having said that, there may be situations where sending elderly parents to old age homes is permissible.

“If you are not able to take care of your elderly parents because they require specific medical attention and professional medical practitioners, then it might be permissible. Or, for example, the elderly parent requires constant attention or care, thus making it impossible for you to work at all,” he said.

Siddiq emphasised that it should not be a situation where children just abandoned their elderly parents at an aged care facility. 

Heartbroken

He said abandoned elderly parents would feel depressed and heartbroken. Children, he added, should try to visit and spend time with their parents.

“Another disadvantage is that patrons at the old age homes may be more susceptible to contracting illnesses there as they are at a vulnerable age and condition,” he observed.

Siddiq said this risk was especially pronounced during the current Covid-19 pandemic, adding that a potential cluster could arise at such facilities.

On the advantages, he said that in nursing homes, seniors would have the opportunity to interact with people of similar age and also receive better medical attention.

“This way, their wellbeing is looked after better and they won’t feel so lonely as they get to interact with others,” he said.

Alyssia

Alyssia Harun Wong, a 29-year-old designer, believed that residential care facilities could provide some security and social connection for senior citizens.

“However, children should not just let go of their responsibility and just leave the elderly at an old age home. I believe the social stigma comes from this,” she remarked. 

She also suggested daycare facilities as an alternative to nursing homes.

“Parents send their children to daycare centres while they are at work, so sending the elderly who are unable to care for themselves should also be an option.”

Alyssia said that people could also consider other eldercare options such as hiring a helper at home.

“But caring for one’s family is still important. No matter how busy we are, we should make time for our family,” she emphasised.

Pang

Pang Wai En, a 23-year-old student, disagreed with the idea of sending parents to nursing homes.

“I feel that children should take care of their parents when they grow old because that is the time their parents will need support from them.

“Old age homes should only be used when the children are not around to take care of their parents. Being busy with work is not an excuse to turn to old age homes,” she said.

She pointed out that eldercare homes could be detrimental as they did not allow the elderly as much independence as they would have to live in their own homes.

“Apart from that, there is the possibility of poor care. We have heard a number of nightmarish stories about old age homes over the years, including stories of abuse and neglect,” she said.

On top of this, she added that the cost of such services was usually high and out of the budget for many people.

Pang felt that seniors could socialise and enjoy a good quality of life without having to enter residential care facilities. For instance, she said they could stay active and participate in social clubs which involved various interests such as travel or hobbies.

“They can even make use of social networking platforms,” she suggested.

As for seniors who needed regular medical attention, she pointed out that there were other choices that could be sought, such as home care nursing services.