This article first appeared in The Sun.
PETALING JAYA: Juggling family commitments with work is stressful enough. For someone like businessman Robert Soh, the added responsibility of caring for an aged and invalid loved one can be nerve-wrecking.
Some have even been forced to consider sending an aged parent to a home for the elderly but for many, this is still frowned upon.
Nonetheless, perceptions are already changing. As psychologist Dr. Fauziah Mohd Saad pointed out, it is now taboo only if the children send their parents to old folk homes and abandon them there.
“Malaysians are now aware that sending their aged and ill parents to a proper care facility is better than keeping them at home with no one to look after them,” the lecturer at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris told the Sun.
But for Soh, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, instead of sending his mother to a care facility, he has a caregiver come over.
His mother, Tan Siaw Khuay, 76, has been immobile since she suffered a stroke 10 years ago.
He was eventually referred to Homage Malaysia, a provider of care services for the elderly and infirm.
His mother now has a nurse who visits daily to see to her every need.
Taboo aside, such arrangements have now become a necessity, especially in homes where both husband and wife work.
Norsalawati Ismail, 49, who is a care specialist at Homage in Johor Baru, often comes across families who hesitate before engaging her services.
The nurse of 25 years said asking a stranger into the house to care for an infirm relative is still taboo for some.
“Many still feel guilty about handing over the care to a third party. But it is good that some families now realise that this is the best option,” she said.
“It’s better than leaving an elderly person unattended.”
Norsalawati explained that as a care specialist, she tends to the needs of the person, “but we do not take over the role of the children”.
To illustrate the difference, she cited a case where she had to look after a man who was ill and an invalid.
“On my first visit, I could feel the gloom. The man had been bedridden for some time, making the family feel guilty about pursuing their personal interests,” she said.
“People should realise that it is not a selfish act to occasionally depend on others to care for a loved one so that he or she can also go out to have some fun. Otherwise, everyone will get burnt out.”
Fauziah said apart from a visiting caregiver, working children could leave their aged parents in a care facility and take them home after work or during weekends so they also have a life outside the care home.
Keeping the parent at home but not being able to attend to their needs is also a form of abuse, she pointed out.