I REFER to the opinion piece “Punishing those who neglect the elderly” by Danial Rahman (What’s Your Status, The Star, Sept 27; online at bit.ly/star_parents).
I think young people who grew up in good, or fairly good, normal homes tend to have ideal views of how they will one day take care of their aged parents with lots of patient, loving kindness. That’s all good and well.
However, things get complicated for those who experienced serious parental neglect, abandonment or criminal abuse in their childhood. These people are victims of adults who are unfit to parent, whether due to a failure to cope with unfavourable life circumstances, pathological disorders or because they are simply incapable of loving their kids.
It is not unnatural that these children then grow up to be estranged and unable to love their parents. Whether or not they choose to take care of their aged parents in the future depends on their own capacity to learn forgiveness and love from outside of their dysfunctional families.
Take, for example, a victim of childhood incest. It is understandable that an incest survivor would want to establish a safe distance from her abuser in adulthood. She may have chosen to keep the abuse to herself and her abuser may have been adept at keeping up appearances of being a loving parent on the outside. Society will condemn her for abandoning her parent when in truth it is an unbearably traumatising ordeal to face her aged abuser every single day. If she is legally punished for this, the system would be victimising her a second time.
People who have a healthy loving bond with their parents, and who have been nurtured to become responsible adults, will not abandon their parents in old age. In some cases, perhaps we need to be open to the possibility that the elderly ended up alone because they have never cared for anyone in their youth or they have done unspeakable things to their children. For them, the old folks home is a place where they can spend their time contemplating on how they got there.
CY , Puchong, Selangor
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