Following the case in which the 84-year-old Wang Ching-hsi (王敬熙) murdered his long ill and disabled wife, several civic groups — along with lawmakers — urged the government to come up with more support measures for caregivers to prevent similar tragedies.
Last Sunday, Wang killed his wife, Wang Sun-yuan (王孫元), who had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for decades and had recently been disabled after accidentally falling at home earlier this week, by hammering a screwdriver in to his wife’s forehead.
Turning himself into the police immediately after committing the murder, Wang told the police that he did so because he wanted to put an end to his wife’s suffering.
“The case shows very well the problems of our long-term care system,” said Frank Wang (王增勇), an associate professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Social Work, who is active in pushing for legislation for more government assistance in taking care of the nation’s seniors, at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
Wang said that family members of disabled seniors could not be automatically considered caregivers: “They also need a break, because taking care of seniors can be a very tiring a frustrating task.”
He said that at the moment, the government is only willing to provide minimal services to seniors living alone, and excludes those with families or with foreign caregivers from care programs.
According to government statistics, over 170,000 families hire caregivers from Southeast Asian countries to take care of their elderly relatives.
According to figures released by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), as many as 30 percent of the seniors in this country are taken care of by other seniors, such as spouses.
“In a sense, the government is forcing family members of disabled seniors to exploit foreign caregivers, because it’s either them or the foreign caregivers who have to work non-stop,” Wang said. “Either it’s the family member or the foreign caregiver, one of them will have enough one day and tragedies like what happened to Mr and Mrs Wang will happen.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) agreed.
“The government has to recognize how serious the problem is, because Taiwan has an aging population and a decreasing birthrate,” Cheng said. “The government has to adjust its way of thinking to recognize who is really in need.”
Taking Wang as an example, Cheng said that, under the government definition, the family would not be considered “disadvantaged” or a “family in need” because both of them were retired professors and their children are all working in the US.
“But obviously, well-off families like the Wangs still need help from the government,” Cheng said.
From a gender point of view, the Awakening Foundation -secretary-general Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛) said the government’s honoring of “model mothers” or “mother wives” may be one of the reasons why many seniors taking care of their disabled spouses or children are reluctant to seek government help.
“The idea behind honoring ‘model mothers’ and ‘mother wives’ is basically telling women in the family to endure whatever comes to them to become ‘models’ for society,” Tseng said. “I think this is an outdated way of thinking.”
Tseng said that, in the past, women in the family may have been able to take on the task because families were bigger and “in-laws could help each other in taking care of household chores and seniors while the men worked in the fields.”
“But the times have changed, and so should the government’s mentality,” Tseng said.
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