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Nowadays, Malaysians are living longer, they are on an average of 74 years for men and 78 years for women. In others words, their life expectancy has increase. With the advances in medical care and better nutrition, older people are living longer, they are more visible, more active and more independent than ever before and they are in better health. Therefore there is a growing concern regarding the global phenomenon of aging. A decline in the birth as well as death rates has resulted in an increase in the elderly population. As a result, the demographers are now paying more attention to the issues of aging.
65 and above
This table shows that the total population and the aged of 65 years or above in Malaysia in the year of 2005 and 2010. In 2005, the total population of Malaysia was 26.75 million, and which 1.15 million or 4.3% was aged 65 years and above. Moreover, in 2010, Malaysia currently has a population of approximately 29 million, and aged 65 years and above has increased to 1.36 million or 4.7%. With the projected population growth of 2% annually, it expected that the total population in 2020 will rise to 34 million, of which 3.2 million or 9.5% will be the age of 65 years and above. In the year 2035, the country is expected to have a total population of about 46 million of which 6.9 million or 15% will be the aged 65 years and above. This is evident that Malaysia’s demographic ageing pattern is emerging. Based on the figure showed in this table, the real numbers of older person have increased lately, which also means that the number of elderly will continue to grow over the coming year. As the populations of older Malaysian grows, so there has a hidden problem of elder abuse. Further, the number of elderly with chronic illness is likely to increase. This can pose an increased burden on their caregivers such as family members, and it could lead to a higher risk of elderly abuse.
Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person (Action on Elder Abuse 1995). The “willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental anguish, or the willful deprivation by a caretaker of goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness.” (1985 Elder Abuse Prevention, Identification & Treatment Act). According to the Swanson(1999), elder abuse refers to the mistreatment of older people by those in a position of trust, power or responsibility for their care. This is a global problem that is likely to intensify in view of the increasing number of older people and the changing socio-economic and environmental conditions worldwide (Randel et al. 1999). Further, Hazzard (1995) described elder abuse as cruel and inhumane treatment of the elderly. Kapur (1997) defines it as a kind of harassment or an injustice done to the elderly by the family members themselves. In fact, there is too many definition of elder abuse but despite this, most would agree with this definition “an action or inaction by someone in a position of trust; often a family member or unrelated caregiver”. Normally, more than 2/3rds of the abusers are their family members and are typically giving their basic needs or care support such as food, shelter, personal care or transportation. In others word, someone who commits elder abuse usually has control or influence over the older person. The older persons often know and trust the abusers. Some victims of elder abuse depend on the people who hurt them, sometimes for food, shelter, personal care, or transportation. Therefore, the abusers could be their family members, friend, someone the older people relies on for basic needs or staff in group residential settings such as care homes or in long term health care facilities.
The Prevalence of Elderly Abuse in Five Developed Countries
This table shows the prevalence of the elderly abuse in five developed countries, which are USA, Canada, Finland, Netherlands and United Kingdom. The prevalence of the elderly abuse in USA with percentage is 3.2%, in Canada is 4.0%, in Finland is 5.4%, in Netherlands is 5.6% and United Kingdom is 5.0%. But in Malaysia, the information and data of elderly abuse is scarce. Although this ‘epidemic’ is virtually unheard of in Malaysia, we are challenged to be aware of the many faces of elder abuse in our own society. So far in Malaysia, there are no reported cases of elder abuse to the Department of Social Welfare as well as no agency keeps proper records of the incidence of elder abuse in this country.
The actual and prevalence of elder abuse is unknown and difficult to measure. Elderly abuse exists in our society but it is hardly reported. This problem often remains undetected because of poor public awareness and lack of knowledge among health care personnel. This is because it can cause some adverse effects on the health and quality of life of the elderly. Due to their mental capacity, they are unaware of the help available to them. Therefore, elder abuse is seldom reported. In most situations, elderly are unlikely to report that they are being abused because they are fear of embarrassment and fear of losing care support. They are mostly completely under the control of the abuser and depend on the abusers for food, shelter, clothing and health care. Furthermore, they also fear of harm by the abuser. Some of them are lack of awareness, they are only suspect but uncertain that is abuse, therefore, the cases of elder abuse is hardly to report and also seldom reported.
As the aging population continue grows, they are need more care and attention. The care and attention may help them remain free of abuse and it can be from their family members, relatives, friends and neighbours. Further, some of them also can be from their caregivers such as from the care home, or nursing home personnel. Other than that, older also can get their care and attention or in form of the fairness from the government by law. This may prevent the occurrence of the elder abuse.
Elder abuse should be a growing concern issue in our society but it is preventable. Each of us, as individuals, family members, in the community, as a society, government or nongovernmental agencies, must play our role, hand in hand to curb this problem. Understanding the magnitude of the problem, knowing and acting against its root causes will help to provide a healthier and safer society in this country and all over the world. In short, we must continue to create awareness, concern our loved ones care and protect them from becoming one of the victims. Further, if we find any problem, moved our loved one immediately and report them to the police.
For so many to live to be old is one of the most remarkable achievements of the twentieth century. To be old and live in dignity free from all forms of abuse must be a common goal for all societies of the twenty-first century. Elderly have rights and deserved to be loved and respected. Certainly elder abuse will increase with an ageing population worldwide, especially if adequate caregiver support programmes and services are not developed in tandem.
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