Saturday, February 23, 2013


Last week a friend posted on his Facebook page a video clip showing a maid tossing a 4-month old baby around while she was feeding and changing him. I viewed with horror and wondered what in the world would drive an otherwise sane young woman to commit such a despicable act? Especially as she is a young mother too? Did she take it out on the poor baby because she missed her two little children back in Indonesia? She had barely started work, and probably already feeling deep frustration and resentment at having to take care of someone else's children instead of her own.

The heinous act was committed on Feb 15. Sentencing was swift. Less than a week later on Feb 19, Yuliana, 23, was jailed for 20 years for attempted murder and child abuse. The baby could have suffered serious injuries and died from being tossed nine times.

Two years ago, a similar case took place at the Nightingale nursing home in Singapore. This time it involved an elderly resident of the home. Two staff members were caught on video manhandling an elderly woman, aged 77. When the case came up in court, the home was fined a total of S$64,500 for various offences, including failure to provide nursing care according to approved standard practice.

Both cases involved the very young and the very old who are unable to defend themselves. Reports of child abuse and elder abuse are on the rise. Child-minding and caring for the elderly requires a lot of patience, tolerance and dedication. It's a calling, and if you don't have it, you will end up inflicting harm on the very people you are supposed to look after. Below is a breakdown of confirmed perpetrators, sourced from the US National Centre on Elder Abuse.

As for Malaysia, there are no official figures available. There is no formal system of reporting of elder abuse in Malaysia. The country has the Domestic Violence Act 1994 and The Child Act 2001. Neither addresses the problem of elder abuse. Figures compiled by UNICEF Malaysia with data from the Social Welfare Department, show that the number of cases has been climbing steadily from 1999 in 2006 to 2,279 cases in 2007 and 2,780 cases in 2008. Based on the statistics, it is forecasted that there would be more than 10,000 cases in Malaysia over the next ten years. It's time to highlight this plight of the elderly, and put measures in place to curb.

Introducing a law to protect the elderly would be a good start.

Elder abuse can take many forms. Besides physical abuse, an elderly person may be subjected to emotional abuse as in threats and insults, financial abuse where family members exploit the elderly for money and property, and there is also neglect or abandonment of elderly parents.

In elder abuse, the guilty are just as likely to be family members as professional carers. Feeding and changing the diapers of an 80-year old is vastly different from performing the same tasks for a cute, bubbly 8-month old.

Caring for the elderly is stressful and exerts a heavy toll on the mental state of the carer. I would think twice about leaving an elderly loved one alone in the care of a full-time maid who is doing the job solely for the salary.

Related article

Elder Abuse - How Guilty Are We?

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