Senator Backs Proposed Law To Hold Children Accountable For Elderly Parents

Senator Ras Adiba Radzi calls for increased public spending and better regulation of long-term care facilities and services, including regular quarterly auditing by government authorities or local councils, as well as a long-term care fund for care homes.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 – Senator Ras Adiba Radzi has endorsed a proposed legislation that would mandate adult children to be held legally accountable for the care and support of their aged parents.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is currently leading the charge on the Senior Citizens Bill, which seeks to institute measures for enforcing filial responsibility by requiring adult children to provide for the needs of their elderly parents.

The senator’s endorsement is based on the success of similar laws in other countries, such as Singapore’s Maintenance of Parents Act 1995 and China’s “Elderly Rights Law”. The Singaporean law allows parents to require their children to pay for their upkeep, while the Chinese law mandates regular visits to elderly parents and punishes those who fail to comply.

In a statement to CodeBlue, Ras Adiba said, “Yes, I’m totally in agreement on the Ministry’s study on the suitability of the law towards children who are not being responsible for their parents, ensuring that public awareness can be increased on caring for senior citizens.”

She said implementing penalties towards citizens who forget their duties to their parents is crucial to upholding human rights, which are universal principles of justice and dignity. According to the senator, policies grounded in human rights are more effective in addressing crises and building greater resilience for the future.

The proposed law has received mixed reactions from the public. While some believe that it is necessary to ensure that the elderly are well-cared for, others argue that it may place an undue burden on adult children who may not have the means to support their parents.

In March, Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Aiman Athirah Sabu announced that the ministry is considering adding provisions to the Act that would hold “irresponsible”children responsible for their parents’ care.

The potential punishment for adult children who send their parents to elderly homes or care centres may include salary deductions.

The proposed Senior Citizens Bill, expected to be tabled in Parliament next year, outlines six pillars, but provides little information on the content of the legislation.

Ras Adiba highlighted a number of common difficulties faced by senior citizens, including age-based discrimination, inadequate social protection and health care access, insufficient resources to support their independence, a lack of mechanisms to enable their participation in decision-making processes, and the threat of neglect, violence, and other forms of abuse. These challenges must be addressed in the upcoming bill, she said.

“In many countries, perhaps most there is a clear and urgent need for reforms, to uphold and advance the human rights of older people, and empower them to live full, free lives, in dignity and equality.

“Malaysia is going to face a serious economic and demographic time bomb. The challenge will be reforming the social security system in a way that secures a minimum standard of living for seniors while reducing the burden on future generations,” Ras Adiba said.

Ras Adiba suggested that the Senior Citizens Bill include the establishment of old age homes, provisions for medical care, protection of life and property, the right to a qualified environment, housing, education, and work, and the right to social services and health care. 

The Bill should also stipulate penalties, including imprisonment, fines, or both, for service providers who neglect their duties or commit violence or abuse against senior citizens.

In a previous report by CodeBlue, caregivers shared their experiences, including a woman whose identity was kept anonymous due to the sensitive nature of her story. 

She recounted how her mother, who has dementia, was forcibly admitted to an elderly home while she was working overseas. The woman also revealed instances of neglect by her two siblings, being denied permission to visit her mother at a private old folks’ home, and the withdrawal of money from her mother’s joint bank account by one of her siblings.

In another testimony, Foong CK, a 70-year-old, shared that during the final six months of his mother’s life, she was in and out of the hospital regularly.

Foong explained that he and his wife were unable to provide the level of nursing care his mother needed, such as inserting a urinary catheter, administering drips and injections, and changing diapers. 

He also shared that his mother’s condition caused her to become frustrated and abusive when he refused to give her hawker food due to the risk of food poisoning and diarrhoea. Foong had no other option but to send his mother to a nursing home, where he visited her every day to assure her that she was not abandoned.

Ras Adiba underlined the growing need for long-term care (LTC) as individuals age and require assistance with daily activities such as dressing, cleaning, and cooking, as well as medical care. 

She said policies aimed at improving the quality of LTC should include increased public spending and better regulation, such as establishing quality assessment and continuous improvement monitoring. Regular auditing should be done quarterly in all senior citizen homes by government authorities or local councils. 

“Governments in many countries are now taking a more active role in this respect. But long-term care still lags behind acute health care when it comes to measurement and quality improvement strategies. 

“To improve the situation, more investment is needed in instruments to measure the level of quality of care. Improvement in outcomes and not just infrastructure should be the basis for setting standards of quality,” Ras Adiba said.

According to the senator, the government must take urgent action to introduce funding commitments for long-term care, including initiatives like Canada’s Safe Long-Term Care Fund.

The Safe Long-Term Care Fund is designed to provide financial support to provinces and territories to help improve the safety and quality of care in long-term care homes. It aims to help address some of the systemic issues that have been identified in long-term care facilities, such as inadequate staffing levels, poor infection control measures, and outdated infrastructure. 

The Canadian federal government, in its Budget 2021, has committed to providing CA$3 billion over five years through this fund to support long-term care across Canada.

Ras Adiba said significant investments are required to improve LTC homes and services, and Malaysia should explore other avenues to adequately fund long-term care. 

To ensure that the government meets its funding commitments, accountability mechanisms such as annual reporting and independent monitoring bodies should be put in place, Ras Adiba added.

The federal government can also use its influence to develop bilateral funding agreements with provincial and territorial counterparts, thereby incentivizing the implementation of standards.

In its election manifesto “Kita Boleh! Harapan GE15 Action Plan”, Pakatan Harapan (PH) proposed a care economy agenda to professionalise the care sector, enhance capacity and training, and achieve an ideal caregiver support ratio.

The coalition also pledged to institutionalise caregiver assistance and allowance for caregivers who must quit employment to care for their family members.

Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee, a proponent of the care economy idea in DAP, a component party of the governing coalition, said to kickstart the care economy, the government could provide a RM10 billion allocation – RM5 billion, RM3 billion, and RM2 billion – over a three-year fiscal period to increase the number of care facilities, care training facilities, and infrastructure for care.

Lee suggested that copayments and cross-ministry contributions could also be explored as additional financing options to fund subsidised public care services and government-paid allowances for public and private employees who need to care for their parents.

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