Old folk’s homes out of food and money, says geriatrician

Dr Tan Maw Pin says care homes have been overlooked in the government’s aid and economic stimulus packages. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A geriatrician has raised the alarm over the impoverishment of private care homes for the aged as a result of the movement control order.

Dr Tan Maw Pin of Universiti Malaya told FMT that care centres, especially those that depend on donations, were running out of money as well as food and other supplies.

She pointed to a care home in Tangkak and another in Ipoh, both of which have more than 100 inmates, and said they had run out of food.

“Authorities don’t know about them,” she said. “People are not giving anything to them because of the MCO. They don’t have food, alcohol sanitisers and face masks.”

She said some residents had chronic diseases and were therefore at great risk of getting infected with Covid-19. “If one falls sick, they all die.”

Tan also said private care homes were short on facilities and could no longer take in any senior citizen discharged from a hospital.

Moreover, any one now discharged from a hospital was at risk of transmitting Covid-19 to the old folks.

“We need to set up a temporary centre to house these older people until after the pandemic,” she said.

Tan said care homes were an overlooked area in the government’s aid and economic stimulus packages.

She noted that RM25 million had been set aside for helping senior citizens, the disabled, the homeless and Orang Asli, but said the amount was insufficient.

“It’s not enough because there are so many all over the country. By the time they distribute it, each will get a small portion only. What can they do with it?”

She said the government needed a good strategy for distributing the money and she suggested setting up a system to enable the public to help the care homes.

Any lack of planning, she said, would cause short-term problems that would aggravate chronic diseases in old people.

“They are socially isolated, inactive and not getting their regular medical attention. In the short-term, we will see more instances of heart attacks and strokes,” she said.

Tan also spoke of old people isolating themselves in their own homes. Many were finding it difficult to go out and get supplies even though some supermarkets were allowing them to shop earlier than others.

“The markets have crowds in the morning. Supermarkets have long queues even though they let them in earlier. And they don’t know how to use online delivery services.”

She said there were also issues with administering regular social services to senior citizens, such as cleaning their homes and keeping them entertained.

“Essential services under the MCO do not cover social care.

“If you’re a healthcare worker working for an organisation, they can give you a letter. But if you are a volunteer providing social care, there is no provision allowing you to go to these people’s homes.”

She said there was a need to diversify the present pool of resources, and urged the government to consider giving access to teleconferencing or teleconsultations and sending doctors to them if required.