Monday, June 15, 2020


We shudder with horror and disbelief when we read in the papers about caregivers physically abusing the elderly in their care. We cannot fathom how anyone could cause pain and injury to frail and defenseless old people. We would never do anything like that to hurt the very people we are supposed to look after and care for.


How many of us are guilty of elder abuse? If truth be told, most of us would admit to some degree of guilt as elder abuse is not just physical. It encompasses verbal, financial and psychological abuse as well. Guess who are guilty of such abuse? Who are the usual suspects? The answer - adult children.

When adult children exploit their elderly parents for their own financial gains, that's abuse too. Examples include compelling their parents to prematurely sign over ownership of the family property to them, or transferring shares to their names. For whatever reasons, these children can't wait to inherit from their parents. That would take too long. We read in the media of cases where elderly parents have been evicted from their own home by their children. Money over-rules blood ties. In a society where cash is king, and wealth equals power, the elderly without much assets to their name have no voice, no rights. They become easy victims of elder abuse.

Perhaps the most common abuse is verbal or emotional. Most of the time we are not even aware that we have hurt the feelings of our elderly parents. In moments of stress, anger or frustration, we lose our patience with them. We chide them, belittle them, even threaten them with the possibility of packing them off to a welfare home for old folks. Of late there have been more reports of children abandoning their elderly parents in hospitals or at bus stops. Are these cases in the minority or are they the tip of the iceberg?

If we do not want our children to treat us this way, then we should not treat our aged parents this way. Let us set a good example by according our parents and all elderly the respect they deserve. We exist because of them. We are who we are today because of them. We owe them a lifetime of gratitude and love.

Filial piety is becoming rare these days. Countries such as Singapore and India have implemented the Maintenance of Parents Act whereby parents can report their adult children to a tribunal for failure to provide financial support and care. When adult children face problems in their business or marriage, it is easy to take out their frustrations on their elderly parents who are vulnerable and unable to stand up for themselves. Life becomes unbearable for their elderly parents. It is no wonder many say they prefer to die than suffer at the hands of their own children.

One day, it will be our turn to experience old age. Will we fall victim to elder abuse? Not if we raise awareness of this despicable social ill, not if we raise our children to respect our elders. We can be good examples by showing our children how we care for our parents. They will learn from us.

Note: This is an updated version of an earlier article on elder abuse. If we see signs of elder abuse or know of any case, we should make a police report.