Sunday, March 31, 2019


SeniorsAloud regularly receives emails and whatsapp messages enquiring about nursing homes for a loved one. First, let me say that we do not operate a nursing home. Second, we are not working with any aged care facility or retirement home operator.

Most of the enquiries we receive lack details, so we can't advise even if we would like to help. Here's a typical one:

"Hi, I am looking for a suitable nursing home for my elderly aunty. Can you please recommend a good one? Thank you."

Not much detailed info for us to work on, is there?

We always recommend doing an online search first, and narrowing down the list to a handful of addresses based on location, fees and facilities. Next is to follow up with a visit to each of the homes. Never rely on website info alone to make a choice. Glossy images may belie actual reality. They are part of marketing strategy to attract and appeal to potential clients.

Here's a checklist of what to look for on your first visit to the home. Be sure to ask the right questions.

1. Is the home licensed? This serves as a good guide as certain conditions need to be fulfilled before a license can be issued. Operators of aged care facilities in Petaling Jaya, for example, should have two licenses - a business license issued by MBPJ and the other by Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM). Ask whether there is a proper admission procedure. Is there a board of trustees or at the very least a management committee to oversee the running of the home? Homes that are run by one or two individuals with little relevant experience or qualifications are likely to be unlicensed. There must be checks and balances to ensure proper and efficient supervision and management of the home.

A simple, uncluttered room that is clean, airy and well-lit. Would be better to have bed rails to prevent the elderly from falling off the bed. The bedside rug should be non-slip and the edges weighted down to prevent tripping.
A morning exercise session for the elderly residents.
    2. Are the nurses and other staff trained? Remember, you will be leaving your loved one in their care 24/7. Do they treat the residents with respect and kindness? Do the staff include medical/health professionals e.g. doctor, physiotherapist? Do the staff look overworked or unfriendly? Are they mostly foreigners or locals? Are they able to communicate with the elderly to understand their needs? What are the provisions for emergencies? Do the staff keep you informed about your loved one when you are away? What is the staff/resident ratio? A rough guide would be:
    • For semi-mobile residents who require some assistance with daily activities. Ratio is 1:8.
    • For wheelchair bound or bedridden residents who may have mental sickness. Ratio is 1:4.
    • For fully dependent residents who have mental or behavourial problems and are unable to cope with daily living on their own. Ratio is 1:2.
    A nursing home with a garden scores a plus point. Residents can enjoy the outdoor sunlight and fresh air, or engage in some exercise, or in gardening.
    3. What is your first impression of the facility? Clean? Odourless? Well-ventilated and well-lit? Elder-friendly furniture and fixtures? Quiet surroundings? Safe and comfortable environment? Any greenery? If it's a double-storey building, look for a fire escape outside. If the home looks uninviting from the outside, there really is no point in ringing the doorbell. It will be a total waste of your time.

    Daily activities and planned meals at a home for the elderly.
    4. Are there planned meals and activities? Is the menu changed daily? Are the residents left to themselves to watch TV most of the time? Does the home arrange for outings or for volunteer groups to visit regularly and entertain the residents? Do the elderly residents look neglected?

    Karaoke session; Bingo. Some homes conduct handicraft and art therapy.
    5. Ask about the fees. Be prepared to pay more if you expect a certain level of care and facilities. The range can be as low as RM1000 a month to as high as RM5000 or more, depending on the type of care required, single room or dorm, and services provided. What do the fees cover besides meals? Laundry? Diapers? Medication? Personal toiletries? Hair cuts? Personal grooming? Daily checks for blood pressure, etc? Are receipts issued for payments? Is a deposit required?

    To meet the needs of a growing elderly population, operating an aged care facility, whether it is a nursing home or a daycare centre, has become a thriving business. Private nursing homes are a common sight in residential neighbourhoods. Most are housed in converted bungalows rather than in purpose-built facilities. Nearly all have attractive websites promising appealing surroundings and tender loving care. Don't be taken in by the hype.

    Ask around for recommendations from friends who have a family member in a nursing home. Let your fingers do some research online to back up a recommendation. Then contact the home to arrange for a visit. If they say you are welcome to drop by anytime, it is a good sign that they are prepared to be 'inspected' at your convenience, and not theirs. Remember to ask the right questions during the visit, and make a mental note of everything you see, both good and not so good. 

    This was one of the best aged care facilities I have visited. Pity it had to close due to the location - too far for families to visit daily.
    I hope this article gives you an idea of what to look for in a good home for an elderly. You will be surprised how many homes you will strike out from your list before you finally find one that could be the answer to your prayers.

    (Note: Images of homes featured in this post are the property of SeniorsAloud. Permission is required to use the images.)

    Thursday, February 14, 2019


    It's Valentine's Day - again. While couples young and old celebrate the day exchanging gifts and Valentine cards, my thoughts, as always, are with those who will not be sitting down to a romantic candlelight dinner. Reason: they are single. To them, I say, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" I am one of you too. No need to dread this day. Indeed, our numbers are increasing. Today being single for an older woman is no longer a social stigma. If truth be told, women in unhappy marriages envy their single sisters but they do not have the courage to break free. To the happily married ones, a toast to you on this Valentine's Day.

    Unless you are married to someone wonderful, it's better to remain single. I am not putting down the institution of marriage. But I seem to be hearing more couples getting divorced than getting married, especially among older couples. Once the children are grown and flown, a couple's marriage is put to the test. Retired couples, in particular, find that being in each other's company 24/7 can either rekindle the old flame of romance and passion, or it can extinguish forever the last sparks of a dying marriage.

    Which one are you? There's a third one - being single and NOT available. 
    It takes a lot of effort, compromise even sacrifice to keep a relationship going. Many young couples don't have the patience to work at it. Gone are the days when wedding vows were taken seriously and couples remained married 'till death do us part'. Even after death, the bereaved spouse stayed faithful to the memory of the dearly beloved. Second marriages were almost unheard of, as were divorces. Indeed, to ask for a divorce would be akin to asking to be ostracized.

    Today on Valentine's Day, I dedicate the day to my parents. I remember them as a very loving couple. As a child, I used to listen with fascination to the love stories my mother told me about how my father wooed her. Their courtship days were like chapters taken from a Barbara Cartland novel. My father simply adored my mother, and spending time with her was something he treasured as we saw him only during the weekends. His work as a medical sales representative often took him outstation and away from the family.

    My father treated my mother like she was a fragile porcelain doll. He was always eager to please her and make her happy. My mother bore him six children during their 10 years together. I was the eldest. My youngest sister never got to see my dad for he passed away in 1957 after a short period of illness. My mom was heavily pregnant with her sixth child when my dad left her - forever.

    My parents - Annie Goh Kwee Foung and Jackie Fu Fook Im (1947)
    My mother will be 94 this October. She has never remarried, and has remained a widow all these past 62 years. I am sure she still misses my father, that is, on days when she can remember, when her mind is clear, and her memory is sharp. For my mom has Alzheimer's. The other day when I showed her this picture of my dad and her, I asked if she knew who the couple was. Without any hesitation, she said 'That's me and that's your father. But he's gone now. He was very good to me.'

    Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, today is the day we celebrate LOVE. We should be celebrating love every day, in the little things we do, for the people we love. Love doesn't have to cost a cent. Love can be a genuine smile, a warm hug or an affectionate kiss. Or a good deed for someone we don't know but who needs our help.

    Spread a little love today, and every day.


    (This post is updated from an earlier one posted on Valentine's Day 2014.)