Proposed Senior Citizens Bill May Impose Penalties For Sending Elderly Parents To Care Homes

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry supports a proposed penalty for sending parents to care homes, despite having the means to care for them.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 – The government announced today that it will introduce a Senior Citizens Bill in Parliament next year that may include penalties for people who send their elderly parents to care facilities or old folks’ homes.

Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) Aiman Athirah Sabu said the ministry will study the suitability of including provisions in the Act that hold “irresponsible” children accountable for their parents’ care, with the aim of raising public awareness on the importance of caring for the elderly.

Aiman Athirah was responding to Hulu Langat MP Mohd Sany Hamzan’s question on whether the government is planning to introduce a law that will compel salary deductions for adult children who send their parents to elderly homes or care centres.

“The responsibility of caring for children is entrusted to both parents, just as it is the responsibility of children to care for and provide for their parents.

“KPWKM welcomes the proposal to introduce a law that mandates salary deductions for children who send their parents to care centres or nursing homes if the children are capable but do not fulfil their responsibilities,” the deputy minister said without providing specifics on the penalty amount or percentage.

“However, for those who are unable to do so, the ministry has implemented various comprehensive initiatives to safeguard the welfare of elderly citizens in the country.”

It is unclear what the parameters are for punishing those who “send their elderly parents to care centres” as some of these facilities provide specialised care and support that can be challenging to provide at home, especially for seniors with complex medical needs.

Previously, The Star reported that over 2,100 elderly patients nationwide have been abandoned by their families at hospitals in the four years from 2018 until June 2022.

According to the report, social workers are forced to track down relatives of these elderly patients who have been abandoned by their families. If none could be located, the senior citizen would be placed in government or private welfare institutions.

Aiman Athirah, a first-term MP from Parti Amanah Negara, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) has conducted a study on the content and scope for the creation of the Senior Citizens Bill Act, which is seen as a holistic positive step to protect the elderly in Malaysia.

“The proposed legislation will include: first, to protect the welfare of senior citizens; second, protecting the basic rights of senior citizens; third, empowering senior citizens; fourth, empowering family members and the community; fifth, creating a strong support system for senior citizens; and sixth, creating a strong support system for carers.

“The establishment of a Senior Citizens Bill is one of the KPWKM’s efforts in addressing the issue of an aged nation, which is projected in the year 2030. The Senior Citizens Bill is targeted for its first reading, God willing, in Parliament next year,” Aiman Athirah said.

The deputy minister highlighted two institutions that demonstrate the government’s efforts to care for the elderly: the Rumah Seri Kenangan (RSK), which provides care for elderly people who are poor, and the Rumah Ehsan (RE), which provides care, treatment, and protection for elderly individuals who are sick, homeless, or have no children.

Additionally, the ministry also has the Senior Citizens Activity Centre (PAWE), a place where the elderly can perform activities within the community, and the Senior Citizens Care Unit (UPWE), which provides transport services to the elderly who live alone or with families who cannot afford, to get medical attention at the hospital or clinic.

The UPWE programme has been allocated RM315,000 in the 2023 Budget, while an assistance programme for senior citizens has been granted RM899 million, with eligible seniors receiving RM500 per month. The deputy minister said the assistance has far benefited approximately 140,447 senior citizens.

When asked by Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff about potential increases in grants for elderly care facilities, the deputy minister said that the government has not yet considered the matter. At present, the amount allocated for grants remains unchanged, but the ministry periodically reviews proposals for increased funding.

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