Is it our responsibility? Unfortunately, an alarming rate of Malaysians have decided that it is not.
In an exclusive on abandoned seniors released by The Star, several Malaysians have responded with the opinion that the elderly should not expect their children to care for them. One even stated, “do not fully depend on children to take care of you because they may have other commitments to see through.”
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, but as the saying goes: what goes around comes around. The last stage of your life should be your golden years, but that may not be the case if you’re isolated and left to fend for yourself. If we’re leaving our parents during their twilight years in the hands of others and set on never seeing them again, who’s to say our own children wouldn’t do the same to us?
This brings up a looming question for Generation Y: are you ready to fund your senior life?
First off, some trivia on the aging world:
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the accepted age to define a person as ‘elderly’ is 65 years.
- WHO’s World Health Statistics 2017 report revealed that the total life expectancy for both genders in Malaysia is 75.0.
- Based on data from The World Bank, people aged 65 and above make up 6% of the Malaysian population in 2015. This is a 3% increase since 1960, and verifies that there are currently 1.9 million senior citizens in our country.
- The world is aging rapidly. According to The United Nations Population Fund, people aged 60 and older make up 12.3% of the global population. It is expected to rise to 22% by 2050.
- The National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) conducted a survey on Malaysian families in 2014, which found that 9% of the elderly (168,000 citizens) in our country are living alone.
- In the same survey, 4.7% (88,000 citizens) stated that they have never received any assistance, be it in the form of money, daily necessities or housework, from their children during their older years—this could be any one of us in the future.
So what should you be prepared to pay on your own?
As the years pass, our bodies will undergo biological changes, which increases our susceptibility to disabilities and illnesses. Health may be the most important physical aspect to living a happy, retired life, but the expenses may force one to think otherwise.
According to Malaysia Health Insurance, medical costs double every six years, rising 15% annually. The good news is, the Private Healthcare Act (1996) regulates the professional fees of doctors. Hence, they are exempted from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
However, the bad news is that GST is included for every other service offered in the hospital. Additionally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (sans President Trump) will also directly influence health care prices, with stricter rules blocking out cheaper, generic products to avoid infringement of copyright. As a result, drugs will cost more over time.
Regular check-ups, treatments of injuries, diseases, and surgeries for older patients don’t come cheap to begin with. If overlooked, your health care expenses are very likely to take a toll on your savings, or, as some netizens say, could “become a financial burden to [your] family due to the poor state of the economy.”
2) Extra help
Technological advances in the medical sector has increased life expectancy worldwide. However, as physical and mental impairments come into play, we would need additional assistance to complete basic tasks such as getting out of bed, eating, bathing and even remembering to take our medication on time.
Ideally, this would mean having someone to care for us in our own homes. Living in a comfortable environment with familiar faces would be the best way to spend our last years, but sometimes, hired caregivers are needed to help us get by.
Most Malaysian families would resort to hiring a maid, paying an average of RM800 per month. For some, a part-time helper is called, and this starts at RM15 per hour. Once mobility becomes an issue and trips to the hospital no longer seem feasible, a trained helper with nursing experiences or specific medical backgrounds may also be required.
Consultation fees start at RM50 per visit, along with extra caregiving expenses such as their transportation and additional medication brought with them.
There’s also the option of moving into a nursing home — it may put less pressure on the wallet. Unfortunately, it could mean starting over by living in a new area together with strangers. The average cost for staying in a nursing home could range from RM700 to RM5000, but these prices may vary according to the facilities offered, the quality of service and depending on the individual’s need for care and medical attention.
3) Daily necessities
As you age, certain items need to be included into your daily routine. That favourite armchair might need to be exchanged with a wheelchair, or you might need a commode by your bed instead of an iPad. Both of these items retail at a few hundred ringgit, varying from brand to brand. You might also find yourself needing adult diapers, which cost RM16 for a pack of 8 in Tesco.
Your diet would undergo major changes as well, with certain products needing to be consumed daily for better health and stamina. An example of this is the supplementary milk powder ‘Ensure’, which sells for RM31.85 per can in Tesco and could last you a week or two. Softer foods such as purées may also be added into the mix, to ease chewing and swallowing.
As accidents could be more prone to happen due to memory loss and slower response rates, be prepared to also stock up on basic medical supplies. These include cotton pads, surgical dressing, wet wipes and rubber gloves.
Caring for the elderly is no easy feat, with its demanding medical attention, round-the-clock care and steep expenses. As we’ve written above, it certainly isn’t any easier if you’d have to do it all for yourself!
While planning ahead may ease the financial burden, perhaps the most important thing you’d need to get you through your final years is a strong support system and good companionship. Unlike physical needs, these care-giving aspects cannot be bought at any price. This is the part where family and friends come in.
For some cases, families have resorted to nursing homes due to financial difficulties and time constraints, and not because they wish to severe ties with their old folks. While it’s understandable that a facility to look after their parents 24/7 is sometimes the only option, children should still visit their parents whenever they can.
Always remember that our parents struggled mentally, physically and financially while raising us as well. Yet they did it all our lives, without complaint or expecting anything in return. As such, we should be doing the same for them by ensuring that they truly live a golden final life.