MMA Collaboration Offers Free Health Screening to People Over 40



This is thanks to SCREEN.DETECT.ACT, a campaign jointly organized by Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and Viatris Malaysia.

This campaign aims to have more Malaysians aged 40 and above screened for risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.


The campaign is an effort of the MMA to support of the National Health Screening Initiative (NHSI) 2022, launched in July this year by the Ministry of Health, to address the low rate of health screening among the public.

Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai, the President of the MMA, tells us: “It is concerning that a high number of Malaysians with high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol were unaware of their health status, as they did not see a doctor for a medical check-up to get a diagnosis.”

He adds that the SCREEN.DETECT.ACT campaign is timely because the rate of health screenings has dropped over the last 2 years due to the lockdowns.


The SCREEN. DETECT. ACT campaign will roll out in Klang Valley and Negeri Sembilan, targeting 1,000 people above 40 years of age and those at higher health risks.

“We urge those above 40 years of age, those at higher risk, and especially, those who have yet to undergo any medical check-ups or health screening, to seize this opportunity to get yourself screened. Early detection and timely treatment can potentially lower your risks of complications and result in better outcomes. Health screening can save lives,” says Dr Muruga.

Free health screening under the SCREEN.DETECT.ACT is available at participating general practitioner clinics. For more information, contact Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) at 03-4041 1375 (office) or 018-277 8794 (WhatsApp only) from Monday to Friday (9 am to 6 pm).



May 8, 2022   Return



Medical check-ups will be part and parcel of an older person’s normal routine.

Send your loved one to medical check-ups as prescribed by their healthcare team.

What can you do when your loved one resist going to these check-ups?

  • Learn the reason for refusal. For example, if they were embarrassed of undressing in front of a stranger, you can find a specialist of the same sex to minimize their discomfort.


  • Enlist another family member or a friend trusted by your loved one to support your efforts.


Older persons tend to be on several medications, and they may have difficulties keeping track of these medications.


  • If you are unfamiliar with your loved one’s medications, or you are bringing your loved one to a new doctor, you can bring along all their medications (pack them in a plastic bag) or prepare a list of the names of these medications (you can copy the names off the box or pill sachet) for the next trip to the doctor.

    You can use this information to clarify any doubts you have or to allow the doctor to have a clearer picture of the medications your loved one is taking.


  • Keep a medication record. List down: the name of the medication, the reason for your loved one taking the medication, the dosage, and special instructions (such as the time the medication has to be taken, etc).


  • Have a pill box to serve both as a medicine organizer and reminder. Fill in the box accordingly at the start of each week.


  • Have an emergency plan. Put up a list of important phone numbers (ambulance, doctor’s number, etc) in an easily accessible location.



May 8, 2022   Return



Many changes will occur as one ages. Your loved ones may experience difficulties adjusting to changes to their health, ability to carry out their daily activities, and more; this perceived loss of control or independence could affect their mental well-being as well.


Here are some ways to help your loved one feel still in control over their life and maintain a positive state of mind.


  • Let loved ones remain involved in making decisions that affect their lives, as long as they are mentally capable of doing so.


  • Encourage your loved one to continue socializing through visits, telephone calls, WhatsApp, or social media.


  • Arrange fun times such as parties or outings. Help your loved one start new hobbies or revive old ones.


  • Always communicate with your loved one, don’t leave them out of interactions with the rest of the family. At the same time, offer privacy when they need it.


While symptoms of depression and dementia may vary from person to person, watch out for common signs.


If you notice signs of either dementia or depression in your

loved one, consider bringing them to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.





  1. Extreme sadness and sense of worthlessness
  2. Loss of interest in favourite activities
  3. Reluctance to leave home or meet people
  4. Weight or appetite loss
  5. Sleep problems
  6. Fixation on death and suicide
  1. Difficulty in finding the right words to use in a conversation
  2. Noticeable changes in mood
  3. Listlessness or apathy
  4. Difficulty in doing normal tasks
  5. Difficulty in following new routines
  6. Confusion or judgment lapses
  7. Difficulty in following story lines
  8. Failing sense of direction
  9. Being repetitive in action and/or speech


If you worry that your loved one may be suicidal, consider the following.


  • Don’t be afraid to directly ask whether your loved one is thinking about suicide.


  • Always be loving and supportive. Listen as your loved one express their feelings and concerns.


  • You can quietly take active steps to protect your loved one, such as keeping possible suicide weapons and dangerous medications out of reach.


  • Enlist the help of a counselor, psychiatrist, and/or spiritual or religious leader to offer emotional support to your loved one. You can also seek assistance from trusted family members or friends that are close to your loved one.



May 8, 2022   Return


As your loved one ages, there may come a time when they become bedridden and require more specific care.


Emotional well-being

  • Continue to engage your loved one into being part of the family whenever possible.
  • Help your loved one communicate with friends and family members using WhatsApp, Facetime, etc. Even if your loved one couldn’t speak, they will appreciate being spoken to by friends and family members.
  • Encourage friends and family members to pay your loved one a visit.



Let loved ones feed themselves for as long as they are capable of doing so. You can assist and offer support, but let them lead the way.

However, should your loved one lose the ability to feed themselves, you can try the following.

  • Only feed your loved one when they are awake and alert.
  • Seat your loved one upright, with the back forward and straight, either on a chair or in bed.
  • When you feed your loved one, face them directly. Wait for one mouthful to be completely swallowed before giving another.
  • Make sure that there isn’t any food residue in the mouth or cheek when finished.
  • If your loved one’s voice is gurgly (rough) after swallowing, encourage them to make an extra swallow in order to clear all residues or secretions, before offering another spoonful of food.
  • Keep mealtimes pleasant and enjoyable. You can talk to your loved one as you feed—even if they may not reply much, they will appreciate your efforts to lighten the mood.
  • Keep your loved one sitting up for at least 30 minutes after a meal.


Pressure Ulcer/Injury prevention

  • Help change the position of your loved one on the bed at least every 2 hours.
  • Check your loved one for any skin changes at pressure-prone sites such as the heels, buttocks, sacrum (lower back bone), hip bone, elbow, and shoulder blades. Do this regularly at every opportunity while you are bathing, positioning, or dressing your loved one, as well as when you are changing their wet or soiled linens.
  • Provide good skin care to your loved one, by ensuring that the perineal area (the area around the anus and the genitalia) is clean and dry, especially if the older person is suffering from urinary or faecal incontinence.
  • Make sure that your loved one’s bed linen is free from wrinkles.
  • Be gentle with your loved one. Do not drag them around in bed when you are moving or repositioning them, as doing so may tear their skin.

Consult your loved one’s healthcare team for more specific advice on feeding, physical activity, etc.

Life Hacks for Caregivers

Life Hacks for Caregivers

May 7, 2022   Return

No matter how old we are, a well-balanced diet is one of the keys to a healthy and active life. It is, unfortunately, quite challenging for caregivers to ensure that their care-receivers receive optimal nutrition, especially when age-related issues that affect eating arise. Here are some life hacks to help caregivers continue to help their loved ones make the most out of every meal.

Slowly replace ‘white’ (processed) grains with whole grains.

Whole grains contain more dietary fibre and nutrients compared to ‘white’ processed grains, so they are definitely the better option. The taste, texture and colour may take some getting used to, so start small by mixing white rice with whole grain (e.g. brown rice). Over time, increase the amount of whole grain while decreasing the amount of processed grain.

Make sure that your loved one drinks at least 8 glasses of water a day.

This will help keep dehydration at bay and avoid dry mouth. Don’t wait for your loved one to drink only when he or she is thirsty, as your loved one’s ability to detect thirst may decline with age. Instead, encourage them to drink at regular intervals.

Serve 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruits a day. Make sure to pick different colours each time.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in various nutrients and dietary fibre. Furthermore, they contain unique protective substances (phytochemicals) that may offer many protective benefits against cancers, infections and more.

Experiment with tastes and flavours.

As your loved one loses his or her teeth or experiences a decreased sense of taste, meals may become a less enjoyable affair. So, experiment with herbs, marinades, spices and sauces to intensify the flavours.

Talk when you feed.

If your loved one needs assistance with eating, talk to him or her to keep mealtimes lively. This also allows you to bond closely with your loved one, as well as to help your loved one keep boredom, loneliness or even depression at bay.

Consider liquid foods when your loved one experiences difficulties in chewing and/or swallowing, or is suffering from malnutrition.

Studies show that ageing affects our nutritional needs. Therefore, your loved one may require less of certain nutrients in later life (such as carbohydrates and fats for energy), and require more of other nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system). Coupled with issues that may arise such as problems in chewing and/or swallowing, this may leave your loved one vulnerable to malnutrition.

Liquid nutritional supplements may be useful as a stop gap measure to help your loved one meet his or her nutritional needs while these issues are being looked into by the doctor or dietitian.  

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5 Ways to A Fit 50s

5 Ways to A Fit 50s

May 3, 2022   Return

It’s easy to assume that all the changes you notice happening in your body in your 50s are due to aging. But some are not inevitable. Here are 5 things you can do to ensure you’re fighting fit in your 50s. These are the cornerstones of preserving physical health into old age.

Muscle up

Loss of muscle mass starts around age 30 and by the time the average person reaches 70, they will have lost 25% of their muscle mass. Scientists now know that not all of this loss of muscle mass that occurs as people age (known as sarcopenia) is due to the process of aging – some of it is due just to inactivity and disuse. The good news is that older adults who strength train regularly can regain a substantial amount of this loss of muscle function and strength.

Having toned muscles is not just beneficial when you want to lift a sack of  potatoes. Muscles burn nearly 10 times as many calories when they’re at rest than fat. So having good muscle tone can help keep your weight in control, even when you’re resting.

Muscles also help insulin to do its job of driving sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, thus reducing the blood sugar level and avoiding the onset of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors linked with a host of diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases).

Enhance your aerobic capacity

Aerobic capacity, which is a person’s ability to use oxygen during exercise, declines with age, even starting as early as the 2nd and 3rd decades. However, recent studies have shown that people who start with higher aerobic capacity and who maintain physical activity throughout life manage to have greater physical fitness at all points of the aging process. Very active people can have aerobic capacities that are equivalent to or better than those of less active people who are 20 years younger.

Preserving your aerobic capacity by doing regular aerobic exercise will help you as you grow older. In fact, taking part in regular training can raise your aerobic capacity by 15-25%.

Regular aerobic exercise also makes your heart work more efficiently. It can lower blood pressure, boost your immune system, reduce depression, and help you avoid stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise also improves your blood lipid profile.

Get flexible

As you age, the stiffness you feel may be due to the decrease in the water content of your tendons and the synovial fluid content of the joints. The cartilage degenerates and ligaments shorten and lose some flexibility. However, even in the young, inactivity results in stiffness in joints and reduced flexibility, so it’s not all age-related.

Keeping up a regular stretching program to keep your muscles from becoming shortened will allow greater range of motion around your joints. It will also ensure that your joints are lubricated regularly, which will help the joint move more easily. Pilates and tai chi can help keep you flexible. They will also help you maintain your agility and balance, which can reduce the chance of falls later in life.

Look after your bones

Most men and women reach their peak bone mass by age 30, but loss of bone mass occurs differently between the sexes. For men, bone loss usually begins when they are in their 50s and progresses more slowly than it does in women. At ages 65 to 70, men and women tend to lose bone at the same rate.

For women, bone mass stays level after age 30 until menopause, when bone is lost rapidly due to the sharp decline in the amount of the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is responsible for keeping a balance between new bone being formed and existing bone being broken down. With the loss of oestrogen, rates of bone breakdown after menopause escalate to an estimated 2 to 3% per year.

Taking calcium will slow the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women, though evidence for increased calcium in older men is not strong. Vitamin D will help your body absorb calcium from food. Your body cannot normally obtain adequate vitamin D from food and needs sunlight or supplements to make sufficient amounts. To further strengthen bones, limit alcohol, don’t smoke and exercise!

Boost your immune system

Doctors believe that the immune system declines in function as people grow older. Specific nutrients that are important in maintaining the immune system can be found in vitamin C, vitamin B, zinc and protein. Eating a balanced diet and even eating more of some of these nutrients than is recommended for average intakes may help prevent some of the age-related loss of immune function.

However, consult your doctor if you are considering taking more than the recommended dose of vitamins or minerals to avoid possible side effects. As you enter your 50s, your sense of smell will start to deteriorate and this may account for people tending to eat less as they grow older. They use of herbs and spices may make food more appealing and improve its nutritional quality.

Lastly, regular moderate exercise boosts the circulation which brings oxygen and nutrients to the organs and cells of the immune system and allows them to function more effectively.



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Enjoy Intimacy in the Golden Years

Enjoy Intimacy in the Golden Years

May 1, 2022   Return

NE_Professor Nathan ...

Professor Nathan Vytialingam   Advisor, Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS)

As human beings, we welcome and even crave closeness with other people, especially that special someone we are blessed to spend our lives with. As we grow older, this desire to be close to our partner often intensifies, and the presence of children, in-laws and, later, grandchildren often only reinforces the love we feel for that special person.

We catch up with Professor Nathan Vytialingam, an advisor for the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS), after he gave a talk on the subject at the Empowering the Elderly seminar earlier this May. He had many enlightening things to share on how the elderly can still enjoy a fulfilling life of love and passion in their golden years.

Tip #1: Love ourselves first, before we love other people.

Normal ageing can bring about physical changes that affect our perception about ourselves. Where there was once a crowning glory of hair is now a bald pate, for example. Some of us may feel that we are no longer as attractive as before when wrinkles begin to show and our body no longer feels as youthful as in the past.

Prof Vytialingam assured us that, often, our perception that we are no longer attractive is all in our mind. After all, we are still the same people that our partner fell in love with!

However, this lack of self-esteem can affect our love life. It is, therefore, important to find ways to boost our self-esteem. Try these:

  • Find joy in being older and wiser. Accept that we are more emotionally prepared to explore new hobbies, seek new life experiences and handle difficult decisions. Our life experiences have shaped and strengthened our relationship with our partner, and it has never been better.
  • Accept that physical changes are an inevitable part of ageing. Focus instead on how we can still look and feel good with various fashion, hairstyles, etc.
  • Participate in organisations or groups consisting of other people our age, either in real life and/or online. Studies found that social interactions can help boost our confidence and make us realise that there is still much in life for us to look forward to and enjoy.
  • If we still find it hard to feel confident about our looks, talk to a counsellor. The very act of confiding our insecurities will lift a great weight off our shoulders, and the counsellor will have useful insight on how to further boost our confidence in our appearance and attractiveness.

Tip #2: Seek medical attention when problems arise.

The physical changes that come with ageing can affect our ability to perform intimate acts. Common examples of such changes are erectile dysfunction, which prevents sexual intercourse from taking place, and changes in the vagina, which can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable or even painful.

Prof Vytialingam said that many couples facing these issues usually seek traditional remedies when there is little evidence to demonstrate that these remedies work. Actually, there are already solutions and treatments that can help address these problems, available either by prescription or at the pharmacy – all couples facing such issues need to do is to seek advice from a doctor.

Of course, not every doctor feels comfortable about addressing an elderly couple’s sexual problems, especially if they are young or shy. If we encounter such a doctor, don’t let that discourage us. “We can always visit another doctor,” suggested Prof Vytialingam, “until we find one that we are comfortable with.”

  • Erectile dysfunction. While there are pills to allow men to attain an erection for a sexual encounter, Prof Vytialingam pointed out that these pills do not address the root of the problem – no pun intended. “Erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological factors, such as stress and lack of self-esteem, as well as underlying medical problems, such as diabetes,” he explained. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor first for a more thorough medical check-up.
  • Vaginal changes. As a woman ages, the vagina may experience changes such as thinning of the walls and a reduced amount of lubrication, which can affect her ability to enjoy sexual intercourse. While lubricants may be helpful in this case, the issues can also be due to hidden underlying medical reasons that may need to be addressed. Therefore, it is advisable to see a doctor to look into these problems.
  • Physical disabilities. Sometimes, we may experience problems such as weakened bones that make it hard to have sexual intercourse in our ‘usual’ ways. In such instances, we can consult a doctor or a therapist for alternative appropriate and safe positions that we can adopt during our intimate moments.

Tip #3: Intimacy is not solely about achieving orgasm.

This may seem like a “What? No way!” kind of statement to some of us, but it is true. Prof Vytialingam assured us that there is more to intimacy than just the sex act. It encompasses cuddling, fondling, kissing and other forms of physical contact that allows us to feel close to and be loved by the other person. In fact, intimacy also includes an emotional component, involving feelings such as love, respect and trust.

Therefore, don’t get frustrated or feel like a failure if we cannot perform like we used to when we were young. Focus on other ways we can show our love to our partners, such as:

  • Touch our partner. Don’t just touch when we want to have sex – make it a habit to kiss, hug, stroke our partner’s cheek and more when the mood hits us.
  • Hold hands. This simple gesture can be one of the most effective ways to strengthen the intimacy in our relationship, so hold our partner’s hand on every step we take together.
  • Do something together. Whether it is a romantic date or just cuddling while watching our favourite TV shows, doing something together creates a magical moment shared between just the two of us, moments that only strengthen our feeling of intimacy.
  • Talk. This is very important, and yet, many of us overlook this act of intimacy. Remember how, after a hard day at work, we feel invigorated again when our partner asks us with a smile, “How was your day, dear?” So, let’s talk to our partner more often, and more importantly, make it clear that we listen to and care about what they want to tell us.

And this leads us to the next tip …

Tip #4: Make time for the two of us.

“Many of us in their golden years spend less time with one another, when it should be the other way around,” said Prof Vytialingam. “We are very busy being parents, tending still to the needs of our grown-up kids, and being grandparents, taking care of the grandchildren.”

We should, instead, allocate some ‘just the two of us’ time to relax, rekindle the magic in our relationship and just have fun. “Tell our children that we can’t take care of the grandchildren this weekend, because we want some time for ourselves,” he suggested.

Some of us may feel guilty for ‘abandoning’ our children or grandchildren, but we should understand that, as much as we love our children and grandchildren, we should also love ourselves as well. So, let’s tuck the guilt away and make plans for a romantic date with our partner!



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Medicine for the Elderly

Medicine for the Elderly

May 1, 2022   Return


E_Dr Tan Maw Pin

Dr Tan Maw Pin   Associate Professor in Geriatric Medicine, University of Malaya

Associate Professor Dr Tan Maw Pin initially wanted to be a psychiatrist. “I was trained in the UK, and back when I was a medical student, geriatric medicine didn’t have the good reputation it has now. I wasn’t particularly inspired when I was taught by lecturers in that discipline,” she admits.

Indeed, students would take up geriatrics only when they could not get into other disciplines, so not much respect was given to geriatrics back in those days.

It was only when she began her housemanship that Dr Tan realized that her calling was in geriatrics. “It was fantastic! I really enjoyed it,” she speaks of those days.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Understanding geriatrics

So, what is geriatrics, exactly? This is still a relatively new medical field in Malaysia.

“Geriatrics is commonly assumed to be medicine for old people,” explains Dr Tan. She adds that, while in a way this is true, we must also remember that a person’s ageing process is influenced by many factors, including the person’s genes.

“What we geriatricians – these are specialists in geriatrics medicine – focus on are people with multiple medical problems, on multiple medications and whom we consider frail,” she explains. In this case, ‘frail’ refers to a state in which the patient is more vulnerable to hospitalization, disability and death due to reduced physiological reserve.

While most of the time the patients may be considered old due to the natural process of ageing, there are other circumstances when a patient may also be considered old, such as due to a wasting disease. Dr Tan recalls meeting a patient who had lymphoma. While the woman was in her 40s, she was a heavy smoker – hence, her lymphoma and her smoking had taken their toll on her body, making her much older than her actual age.

“Back then, I was working in an oncology ward. To me, 40 was young, so I was doing everything I could for her, even when it was clear that she was losing the fight. But she was already a grandmother, with an eight-year old grandson, and she felt that she had done everything she wanted in this life. Hence, she had made peace with the fact that she would have to leave this world soon,” Dr Tan reminisces.

The patient helped her realize that, sometimes, maximizing a patient’s quality of life in their remaining time, as well as doing all that is possible ensure that the patient meet a dignified, good end – all these are just as important as treating a patient’s physical symptoms.

Like many medical disciplines, geriatrics has various sub-specializations such as dementia, stroke and more. Dr Tan’s sub-speciality is geriatric cardiology, which revolves around treating and caring for older patients with falls, dizziness and blackouts heart problems as well as low blood pressure.

Given that we already have existing specialists in these fields, how does a geriatrician fit into the picture? Dr Tan explains that geriatricians are trained to have a good understanding of how to manage the complexity of multiple medical issues and multiple medications, and is able to identify important issues which need to be prioritized according to urgency. This opens up some benefits for the patient.


Better understanding of the elderly.

Dr Tan points out that, as we age, things can become less clear cut. Take the common cold, for example. A younger person will have runny nose and perhaps a cough, but older people may instead become sleepy, lose their appetite and experience difficulty in walking due to what geriatricians call off-leg deterioration. A geriatrician will recognize these symptoms, but another doctor may not, and as a result may have a harder time understanding what is wrong with the patient.

Geriatricians are also trained to have a better understanding of how an elderly person thinks and feels. “If we have, say, an elderly patient climbing out of his bed and running around the ward, trying to find his way out, a new hospital staff may not know what to do or even panic,” she says. “To a geriatrician, however, this is a normal part of the job. She is emotionally prepared for such situations, so she can calmly make efforts to control and manage the situation.”

Also, the elderly may be seen as stubborn in admitting that he or she has a problem, or become uncooperative. Fortunately, the geriatrician is trained to smooth the ruffles of even the most ‘difficult’ patient, therefore providing a good degree of relief to the patient as well as the patient’s family.


Psychological benefits for patients and their family.

“Communication with older people is a specialist skill, not everyone can do that,” Dr Tan says. She explains that the geriatrician is not just trained in medical matters – she is also well-versed in family dynamics and some degree of psychology. Aside of being a doctor, a geriatrician can also be a confidante and a shoulder to cry on. Hence, if the geriatrician becomes someone patients and their family can trust, she can become their anchor and strength through trying times. 

Fewer doctors in the picture. Many elderly people have more than one condition at the same time. The geriatrician, therefore, does not work alone. In Dr Tan’s case, she often enlists the assistance of her colleagues from other disciplines – for example, a surgeon will step in should the patient need to undergo a surgery. Additionally, she will be working closely with a multidisciplinary team consisting of nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians as well as the doctor.

Through all of this, she will be the specialist who supervises the necessary treatments and procedures that will meet her patients’ needs. She is the main consultant, and as a result, this cuts down on the number of specialists they need to see.

The benefit of this is more convenience for both the patient and the family, especially if the family has to bring the patient to the hospital regularly for check-ups. They may also find it easier (and less confusing) to keep track of prescriptions and medical recommendations if these come from a single doctor. 

Geriatrics in Malaysia

Undoubtedly, geriatrics is an important medical discipline, especially in a country such as ours which has an increasingly large number of ageing population.

However, our level of geriatric care still has a long way to go, compared to the UK and other countries. “The holy grail of geriatric care is to minimise the tertiary or late-stage care as much as possible. Focus should be on ‘ground level’ care, treating conditions when they are at early stages, through a community-based model that involves the family, social workers and community healthcare services,” Dr Tan explains.

She is optimistic for the future, however. “Look at Taiwan – things changed for the better in the blink of an eye!” she enthuses. “Who says Malaysia can’t do that? We have the economic capacity to make changes; we just need to find the will.”

The geriatricians in Malaysia are slowly but surely leading the vanguard for change. The Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine (MSGM), of which Dr Tan is a member of, is formed with the objective to increase awareness of the healthcare needs of older people in Malaysia, advise appropriate regulatory bodies on training and credentialing of geriatricians, and to advance geriatrics through research, publication, awareness programmes and more.

Currently, there are only 27 geriatricians in this country. However, the seeds have already been sown to increase this number. MSGM has developed a training curriculum for geriatricians. The University of Malaya has introduced geriatrics in its curriculum for medical students, and it is hoped that more medical schools will follow suit.

Thus, the current geriatricians in our country are not just specialists tending to their patients; they are also teachers, trainers, advocates and advisers. Networking efforts, support systems and bonds are formed within a close-knit community on WhatsApp, keeping present and future geriatricians close regardless of the physical distance separating them.

And best of all, their efforts are starting to pay off. Dr Tan personally has experienced greater enthusiasm and even passion among medical students to take up geriatrics. “The future is bright!” she concludes with relish.

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“No, I Won’t Wear Them!”

“No, I Won’t Wear Them!”

May 2, 2022   Return

As many caregivers know, incontinence is a common condition among older adults. Most of them become easily embarrassed by their lack of bladder control, and choose to withdraw from the outside world – which can leave them prone to mood swings and even, depression.

Adult-absorbent products, such as adult diapers or pants, are a convenient solution to an incontinent person’s dilemma. After all, they are comfortable to wear and offer protection against leaks, wet spots and unfortunate odours that can arise. They also allow an older adult to have the confidence to remain social and active in ways that can improve their mental and physical well-being.

However, older adults may resist wearing these products due to embarrassment. If you are a caregiver and your charge is being uncooperative, here are some tips you can try:

  • Call them by another name. Most adults associate words such as “diapers” with babies, and they may feel that wearing these “diapers” are a sign that they are now helpless and weak. So, try calling them by other names, such as “pads”, “underwear” or anything else that will be better received by your charge.
  • Explain to them the benefits of wearing adult-absorbent products, and also point out how comfortable they can be. You can also indicate how closely they resemble ordinary underwear, so there is less fear of being “found out” if they peek out of one’s waistband.
  • You can also try appealing to their sense of vanity. For example, you can talk about how wearing such products would eliminate problems of embarrassing smells or leakages when one is out with friends and family.
  • Normalize the act of wearing such products. Do not make a fuss. Instead, portray the act of wearing them as nothing more different than, say, changing to a different type of underwear. Your charge may be more cooperative if he or she is not constantly reminded of the condition so often.
  • Have a family member or friend who is closer to your charge’s age to talk to your charge. Your charge may be more willing to listen to someone that seems to understand his or her predicament. If you can get someone who is already using adult-absorbent products to talk to your charge, even better!
  • Get a doctor or nurse to talk to your charge. He or she may be more amenable if the prep talk comes from a healthcare professional.   


Aging Care. Available at

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The Elderly & the Family

The Elderly & the Family

May 1, 2022   Return

Assoc Prof Dr Tan Maw Pin   Consultant Geriatrician, Department of Medicine, University of Malaya

Associate Professor Dr Tan Maw Pin is not your everyday specialist. One of 23 geriatricians in Malaysia, Dr Tan specialises in the care and treatment of the elderly. In addition to prescribing treatment for the different related health conditions and diseases, she also offers consultations and advice on the overall lifestyle modifications in order to improve the quality of life of the elderly.

Therefore, Dr Tan is no stranger to the issues related to the care of the elderly. “Our life spans have increased, so there will be more older people as time passes. And we need to be prepared to care for them.”

  • Average life expectancy of Malaysians is 72.3 years (male) or 77.2 years (female).
  • In Malaysia, older persons are defined as those aged 60 years or more.
  • In 2012, there are 2.4 million older Malaysians, making up 8.2% of the total population.
  • The number is expected to rise to more than 15% in 2030.

The evolving family unit

These days, caring for the elderly is getting more complicated as the family unit is constantly evolving to keep up with the increasing cost of living.

“The average household in Malaysia is becoming smaller,” Dr Tan says. Increasingly, elderly family members find themselves caring for younger family members while the adults work. Also, many adults are migrating to “hot spots” like the Klang Valley in search of better jobs, leaving the elderly family members behind.

For most families, it can be tough to juggle the many responsibilities – to oneself, the family and the employer. Dr Tan, however, has some tips to help these families make the best of the situation.

Money Matters

  • Get insured. It is hard to anticipate the costs of treatments in the future, so having insurance would be a great help in covering these costs.
  • While there is rationing due to limited resources, government-run health facilities provide consultations, surgeries and medications at a subsidised cost. This is a feasible option if one is unable to afford private healthcare. Medical social welfare services such as home visits and free transportation to clinics or hospitals may be available for those in need.

Movement & Disabilities

  • Consult an occupational therapist for appropriate home assistive and/or adaptive equipment. For example, handrails to assist in moving onto and off the toilet seat. Dr Tan points out that such equipment can easily be dismantled and their impact on a home resell value is usually minimal.
  • Let the elderly exercise at least 30 minutes every day to help strengthen their muscles and bones. “When the elderly has problems walking, for example, the family tries to limit his movements when, in fact, they should be encouraging him to move more,” says Dr Tan. Please speak with a physiotherapist  on the appropriate types of exercises for the elderly.

Mental Wellness

  • Watch for signs of dementia, such as forgetting simple things like where the keys are. “Many people incorrectly assume that, because the elderly person can still remember details from the past, there is no cause for concern. In dementia, memories from long ago are often the last to go,” Dr Tan says.
  • Bingo has been demonstrated to be able to help elderly people keep their mind sharp. It is a fun activity too, so why not make bingo night a regular family event?
  • Let the elderly folks continue to carry out their daily routine for as long as they are capable. This helps the mind to stay sharp as well as to let them retain their sense of independence. Dr Tan points out laughingly that she is a “heartless” daughter – she lets her own parents prepare their own drinks.


Shower Love & Affection

The emotional wellness of the elderly should not be overlooked. Dr Tan encourages us to give some of our time and affection to the elderly.

One could include the elderly in family weekend activities, for example. Or if the elderly family members live a distance away and it is not possible to travel, a simple phone call asking how they are could be something they cherish far more than all the money we spend on them.

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