Malaysian elderly swindled by their own families and dumped at welfare homes

Residents engaging in physiotherapy session at Spring Valley Homecare, a nursing home in Johor Baru, Malaysia.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

PETALING JAYA - Most of the elderly folk at Kebajikan Kasih Malaysia were abandoned by their families after being swindled of their money.

Pastor Joseph Maniam, who runs the welfare home in Sungai Petani, Kedah, is fed up of families who use his home as a place to "dump" their parents or elders.

"It's sickening. I have two recent cases where the families abandoned their mothers here after robbing them of their money.

"One lady, Muniammah, was kicked out of her home by her brother after her husband passed away last year. She claims her son took all her money.

"When I called the son, he said he couldn't care for her because she couldn't get along with his wife. Muniammah has cataract and can't see well," Maniam, 69, said.

There are now 13 elderly residents at the home.

"It's very sad to see these old people as they have lost all hope. They are just waiting for their time to come.

"This is unacceptable. We need to have guidelines for those who want to leave their elderly in homes and laws that protect the elderly from such abandonment and neglect," Maniam said.

According to Assoc Prof Dr Siti Zaharah Jamaluddin of Universiti Malaya's Law Faculty, financial abuse is mostly committed by those related to the victim through blood, marriage or a special relationship such as a trustee or a person with the power of attorney.

The laws allow the cheated senior citizens to take legal action through the Penal Code.

"The Penal Code has been amended to increase the punishment if the victim is elderly. But the victim needs to lodge a police report before an investigation can commence.

"Since such abuse often involves family members, most of the elderly victims don't want to report the crime.

"Without a police report, the law will infer that he or she consented to what was done or has accepted and condoned the action," Dr Siti Zaharah said.

She and her colleagues at the law faculty are drafting a proposed legislation for the elderly to offer them better protection against financial abuse.

"We need a specific definition of elder financial abuse and to put in place mandatory reporting of abuse. For example, it must be mandatory for caretakers to report abuse and there should be intervention by the Government.

"The same goes for financial institutions ... if a bank notices anything amiss, it should be mandatory for it to report or check. Failure to report should be made an offence.

"This is one way to deter abusers and the elders will have a layer of protection," said Dr Siti Zaharah.

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