Sarawak still without better retirement and nursing homes


  • Community
  • Tuesday, 10 May 2011

JUST two days ago, our nation celebrated Mother’s Day in recognition of the woman whose hands rock the craddle.

Hotels and restaurants come up with special menus featuring lunch and dinner sets so that we could give our mothers a break from the kitchen for a special treat.

Otherwise, head to the store and buy her a gift or two from the many irresistible promotions held for the occasion.

But while there will be many who bustle about trying to find the perfect gift for dear mummy, for some the reality bites because their mothers are spending that special day in an old folk’s home somewhere.

Unfortunately, it will not be just for Mother’s Day, for they will be there through Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Christmas and even the Chinese New Year because the home has eventually become what it is to them — a home.

Before you shake your head in disapproval trying to fathom the idea of someone leaving her aged mum in one of such homes (because it is still considered a taboo in our society), each case is different and sometimes there is a strong reason for doing it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to advocate shipping off your silver-haired parents to these homes just because you can.

I, for one, side with the traditional way — that it is the children’s duty to care for their aged parents until the day they must go.

However, we cannot ignore the ugly truth that there are some who cannot or lack the resources to care for their old folk. Poverty, work commitments and even ill health are things that can force children to turn to those homes.

Needless to say, caring for the elderly is really not easy, which is why if children are not up to it because they are not in any position to provide the necessary for their old parents, they cannot be faulted.

In any case, in these homes, parents would be cared for 24-7 and on top of that, receive medical care even by visiting doctors and nurses.

But as our society matures by the day, many existing homes might not fulfil the demands of the discerning, which is why many still frown upon the idea of putting parents in these homes.

What we have in our midst are homes with dormitory-style bedrooms, living rooms that could be mistaken for kitchens because of their white-tiled walls, and dining rooms that closely resemble a school’s cafeteria, complete with their long tables and all.

One particular home even has an adjoining funeral parlour by its entrance, as if it is not enough to remind residents that they can kick the bucket anytime.

This, I personally feel, is mindless. Imagine these senior citizens having tea in full view of an empty casket. Dreadful!

Having said that, due respect should be given to some homes for trying to provide the best on a limited budget. Besides, these homes are relatively clean.

Nevertheless, after more than 40 years of independence and making good progress in many areas of development, it is sad to see that Sarawak is still without a retirement or nursing home that is on par with those found in countries like the US and Canada.

We have yet to have a home that provides multi-residence housing facility intended for senior citizens, whereas in some developed countries homes can mean apartment-style rooms and suites complete with conveniences and facilities like meals, gatherings, recreation and even health and hospice care.

Often, these homes would either charge on rental basis or they could be bought in perpetuity.

In some countries, there are even retirement villages where senior citizens could go about their day independently yet under the good care of professional caretakers. One in particular is Rosewood Manor in Ontario, Canada.

The retirement home has registered practi-cal nurses to do medication administration, and provide supervision and weekly assistance.

It provides three nutritious meal a day plus snacks and beverages and also has an ‘Assisted Living’ wing carefully designed for residents with special needs.

The home also lines up fun activities like carpet bowling, musical performances, craft, excursions and exercise programmes, all of which are important to healthy living.

Which brings us to another important point that if one doesn’t send an aged parent to a home, one must be prepared to provide a socially active life for her.

Old parents should not be cooped up in the house day and night as this can be depressing and lonely. The point to remember is it does not help if a senior citizen is kept unoccupied because a sedentary lifestyle and isolation could make her feel useless and hopeless.

Remember that in retirement homes and villages, senior citizens are encouraged to interact to foster a close community and inculcate a sense of belonging.

Suffice to say, they are far from being treated like hospital patients who are being warded or inmates locked up and made to follow a regime.

Their loved ones are also encouraged to visit them at any time of the day and can stay over from time to time if they want to.

In fact, Rosewood Manor even provides enrichment activities like allowing the setting-up of a resident council, which give residents and their families a say in life at the manor as well as spiritual gatherings, physiotherapy, gardening and even a chance to continue their education.

While this sounds more like a private effort, the government should be involved in the idea of initiating such kind of homes as this will surely reflect our society’s position globally.

Furthermore, this will make these homes affordable instead of being exclusively built for the wealthy, defeating the basic purpose of providing quality lifestyle for all.

We should no longer believe that providing shelter and a decent meal of rice and biscuits is enough. Our old parents need professional care not only physically but mentally and emotionally, too.

They need to be given an all-round care in a friendly and comfortable environment and this means the standard of the homes in Sarawak needs to be reassessed for the necessary revamp.

When these homes can provide even better lifestyle than what the family home can offer, we will see the brighter side of them.

If we can do all this, making these homes our option certainly will not be looked upon as being unkind to our parents.

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