Old couple get another year together

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2012, 12:00am


Centenarian Ng King-yin and his 95-year-old wife Lam Sau-king moved into a private care home together last Tuesday, temporarily easing fears that they would be forced to live apart after eight decades as a couple.

But their fees at the private home in Kowloon will only be paid by a sponsor for one year and their long wait for a government-subsidised home continues.

The South China Morning Post revealed in February how Ng had been offered a space at a care home at the age of 100 - after a two-year wait - only to learn that Lam's deteriorating health meant the government would require her placement in a more intensive nursing home.

The couple had lived with their daughter and main caregiver, Joyce Ng Siu-mei, until the public Pok Oi Hospital in Yuen Long offered to fund the HK$17,500 monthly fee for a private care home for a year.

'Despite everything, I miss them terribly too,' said Joyce Ng, who visits her parents every night. 'We are all still adjusting.'

While her parents sleep in different rooms as the home is divided by sex, they spend time together during the day.

Ng says that whenever her mother, who is confined to bed and suffers severely from Alzheimer's disease, sees her father, her face lights up and she reaches out to her husband.

'He keeps calling [my mother's name] 'Ah King! Ah King!' and will chat away happily when he sees her,' Joyce Ng says.

Care home staff understand how agonising it would be for the couple to separate, Joyce Ng says. She has yet to plan for next year, but says another move would be difficult.

There are 247 cases in the city in which two people are seeking to be placed in the same care home.

Ng Wai-tung of the Society for Community Organisation, who has been helping the family, says it is frustrating that the government only acts under public pressure.

'It's very disappointing that it took this extremely and extraordinarily sad case to move the government to do anything,' he said. 'Not every elderly person would have the opportunity this couple did.'

A spokeswoman for the Social Welfare Department said it helped the couple find a suitable private home and discussed sponsorship for the couple with Pok Oi Hospital.

Only 17 homes, with 1,306 subsidised places, accommodate couples with different levels of need - which allows people needing 'care and assistance' to live with those who need 'nursing care'. That means couples face a long wait or the prospect of living apart. Other couples are separated as only one qualifies for care.