Ageing society

Hong Kong government reviews services after recent elderly deaths

Minister says more must be done to help those who care for ageing relatives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 11:53am

A strategic review is under way to plug the loopholes in elderly care after recent family tragedies involving the killing of old people exposed the plight of the city’s carers, Hong Kong’s labour and welfare chief has said.

Dr Law Chi-kwong’s remarks came after the city saw three murder cases involving a carer this year – a worrying situation which has highlighted poor community support for elderly people and their families.

“Among the resources we have pumped into our formal services, why are these cases still falling into these cracks of our service network?” Law said. “Is it a matter of service methodology, strategies or a lack of collaboration?”

The minister said he had tasked the Social Welfare Department to work closely with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service in exploring technical solutions which would help different service units match appropriate services to elderly people at risk.

He added the government should devise evidence-based methodology for assessing risks to ensure help could be offered at the right time.

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A man with mental issues was accused of murdering his bedridden mother last month before jumping from his flat in a suicide bid. He had hired two domestic helpers to take care of his mother.

Earlier this year, an 80-year-old man, who allegedly strangled his chronically ill wife, was understood to have turned down help from social workers before the tragedy happened.

“If you look into the details of those cases, at a certain point of time some formal services are offered. Somehow they considered they did not need them but then after some time they stressed out,” Law said.

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“When something comes to a very critical stage, is the support needed around? What is the methodology that tries to reduce that risk? How can that help be offered at the right time? These are the things we are going to look at.”

Social workers have been urging the government to introduce a comprehensive case management system to help match elderly people with the services that best serve their needs, given that they often face difficulties in finding the service on their own.

Law said the issue was on the government’s agenda as such a mechanism was “almost inevitable” due to the growing complexity of community care services.

The scholar-turned-minister also hoped to look into the issue of elderly suicide, which he believed could be reduced indirectly if the government offered better care.