Nursing homes need to be regulated

Prof Dr Tengku Aizan (centre) visiting the Kinta Medical Centre in Ipoh to check on healthcare for the elderly at the centre.

Prof Dr Tengku Aizan (centre) visiting the Kinta Medical Centre in Ipoh to check on healthcare for the elderly at the centre.

UNREGISTERED nursing homes employing foreign workers to care for the elderly pose a dilemma to the government as it is hard to regulate the quality of care provided.

Prof Dr Tengku Aizan Hamid, who is the director of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Institute of Gerontology, said operators of such homes see the strict requirements stipulated under the Care Centre Act 1993 as a deterrent.

“They are approaching this notion of elderly care from a business perspective only.

“There is a need for them to register to follow the standards required because it is our job to make sure that their residents are getting the best kind of care.

“Instead, they are hiring untrained foreign workers, who are being paid a maid’s salary, to care for the old,” she told journalists at a media roundtable on ageing titled “Age Inclusiveness and Supportive Environments” in a hotel here, recently.

Tengku Aizan said, so far, official records in the Health Ministry only show that 268 nursing homes in the country are registered, compared with some 1,000 that are operating unlicensed.

“It is a real dilemma because if we decide to take action and shut down the unregistered homes, where are we going to place the people who are currently under their care?

“As of now, there is no law that requires nursing homes to hire trained individuals to care for the elderly, but the government is currently drafting regulations to ensure their care and protection.

“It is about time that new regulations are developed as the increasing number of older people in the country requires a rethinking of health and social-care provisions,” she said.

Earlier during a question-and-answer session, Tengku Aizan said it was also difficult for her research team in UPM to gather information from these homes to study and establish the quality of training required.

“When we are at their doors, they won’t entertain us. But it is not like we are penalising them.

“How can we achieve quality standards when we can’t gain access to these homes? We really need their cooperation, so that we can establish national standards for aged care.

“Of course, one could argue that we could always study based on standards provided in the United States or the United Kingdom, but what is available there may not necessarily fit our values and economic development,” she said.

In addition to this, Dementia Society of Perak Chairman Dr Esther G. Ebenezer, who was also present, said it is also crucial for Social Welfare Department officers to make surprise visits to the nursing homes, regardless of their registration status.

“In Australia for example, welfare officers can at any time check on the homes to make sure that they are operating according to the regulations,” she said.

With Malaysia expected to become an aged nation by 2030, Tengku Aizan said, it is important for senior citizens to engage in meaningful activities as a way to age actively.

“Retirement doesn’t mean that they must lead a sedentary lifestyle. It is time for them get active and do something for themselves in comparison to their time at work when almost everything was done for the sake of their bosses.

“By doing activities that are meaningful to them, like gardening and cleaning public places, it boosts their ego and at the same time, it makes them healthier,” she said, adding that it is also important for the elderly to exercise, eat good food, have enough sleep and stop worrying too much.

UPM deputy vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mad Nasir Shamsudin was present to open the roundtable session.

Also present at the panel to give their statements and remarks were Health Ministry Family Health Development Division Chief Dr Mohamad Salleh and National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations President Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh.