Rising number of seniors left behind at hospitals

KUALA LUMPUR - More senior citizens are ending up in welfare homes after being abandoned by their families at public hospitals.

Hospitals, especially those in the Klang Valley and other urban areas, have little choice but to refer them to shelters run by the Government or NGOs, as they need the beds for new patients.

Hospital Kuala Lumpur's medical social work department head Hasnah Sulaiman said that up to June this year, 157 patients above 60 were abandoned by their families at hospital. A total of 205 senior citizens were abandoned last year.

Hasnah said 95% of those abandoned came from poor families.

She said in most cases, family members refused to take them back or could not be contacted because fake telephone numbers and addresses were given during registration.

“In some cases, doctors even called the children personally to tell them that their parents had recovered, but they insisted that the old folk were still unwell,” she said.

Another common excuse was that they did not have the time to fetch their elderly parents back.

She said hospitals usually handed over the neglected old folk to non-governmental organisations. “But even these shelters are now almost filled up.”

Foong Peng Lam, one of the coordinators at Rumah Kasih (an NGO set up to care for abandoned patients in government hospitals), said hospitals often asked him to help find shelters for forsaken elderly people because beds were desperately needed for new patients.

He said Rumah Kasih had helped find sanctuaries for 496 patients from Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Hospital Selayang, the Institute of Respiratory Medicine and Hospital Sungai Buloh since the home was set up in 2000.

According to the Social Welfare Department, the number of old folk deserted by their families had steadily increased by 1% each year between 2008 and 2011, based on the number of admissions to its nine Rumah Seri Kenangan units.

The homes, which care for those aged above 60, took in 340 senior citizens last year as compared with 248 in 2010.

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 as at 2004 when the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey was conducted.