New Chinese Law Requires Citizens To Care For Their Elderly Parents, Reminds Me What A Crap Job The US Doing

Cute old guyI think the way we treat our elderly in this country is a serious problem, but one that might not be easy to fix. Personally, I regret not visiting my grandfather (pictured below), who passed away last week, more often. But work, kids, and a 400+ mile distance kept me away more than I would have liked. So this new policy in China kind of makes sense to me.

grandpa John

A new law went into effect Monday that requires Chinese citizens to care for their elderly parents (and I’m assuming other elderly relatives who might end up on someone’s care). This includes regular phone calls and visits, and is intended to “protect the lawful rights and interests of the parents ages 60 and older, and to carry out the Chinese virtue of filial piety,” according to the official China Daily news.

The law gives elderly folks leverage to use on their children and relatives, allowing them the right to ask for mediation or even file a law suit in more serious cases. The law even takes into consideration people who don’t live near their loved one, requiring employers to allow their workers time off for their visits.

Chinese demographics specialists are linking the need for this law to the one child policy, but I could see how a similar law here in the U.S. could have value. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than one in 10 elderly people experience some form of abuse, but only one in 23 are reported.

One reason for the pervasiveness of elder abuse is that many people leave their elderly relatives to languish in a nursing home for years before they pass away. Elderly people who are left alone are way more likely to be abused or simply neglected than if they had an attentive relative frequently there to ask questions.

A month before my grandfather passed away, he fell and broke his hip. My family and I (most notably my wonderful mom) were thankfully able and willing to take the time off needed to stay with him during his time of need. This was important not just to comfort him but to make sure he was getting the care (and respect) he deserved.

Not every family is able to do this. What happens then? It would be great to see companies change their policies to allow workers time off to care for their elders– more than just FMLA. But I just don’t see that happening when it doesn’t do anything for the company’s bottom line. That’s where the government should step in so that no one gets left behind, because I think the people who helped shape the current generations deserve at least that much.

(Photo: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock)

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  • Andrea

    Yeah I am 100% with you on this. I too am all over the child, health care, and education initiatives but this smacks of over intrusiveness to me.

    What if the elderly person is being “neglected” because he/she was an abusive asshole? What if just taking time off work (most likely unpaid) isn’t all there is to it? Can the govt/workplace afford to pay for the time off, the travel required, etc? And why should it really? What of the “neglected” elderly person doesn’t WANT to have his/her children around because they are jerks?

    • Frances Locke

      I totally see what you’re saying. My opinion on it is it shouldn’t go beyond someone needing to be there to ensure the proper care is being given. After reading about some of the elder care abuses that go on, I think the people who truly deserve that (abusers, pedophiles, etc) are few and far between. No one should be forcing people to hang out with people they hate, but if someone WANTS to, they should be able to take the time off. The Family Medical Leave Act doesn’t cover enough many people end up “neglecting” their elders out of necessity, not choice.

    • Andrea

      Maybe not. Just because a parent isn’t physically abusive, doesn’t mean they are not incredibly toxic. My MIL is one such person. She is selfish, mean, self-centered, and negative. I don’t want to be around her and neither does my husband.

      He wouldn’t let her die under a bridge, but I would hate any law that would force him to call her and visit.

  • jsterling93

    Considering the relationship I have with my own 66 year old mother at the moment I am not a fan of this. She is a mean, cruel, bitter woman who actually recently suggest I leave my husband and 2 month old son so that I can move in with her and “keep her company.” After all the don’t “need” me like she does.

    • Frances Locke

      I think for me the point would be less about spending quality time and more about making sure they receive the best care they can. Though that doesn’t seem to be the motivation behind the Chinese law.

      Sorry for your troubles with your mother. My father had similar issues with his mother. He struggled to work on securing her elder care without letting her negativity get to him (or ruin his second marriage with my awesome step mother).I hope things get better for you.

  • Rachel Sea

    I don’t see this happening here, not when we can’t even have decent maternity leave.

  • Frances Locke

    My point with the US was more about expanding the Family Medical Leave Act (or adding something else) that would allow more workers to spend time with their elderly family members. The Chinese law takes it too far, at least when you consider American standards.

    • Andrea

      I read the original article. It doesn’t say a thing about ensuring proper care! It just says you are obligated to call and/or visit! That’s ridiculous.

    • Frances Locke

      Like I said, the Chinese law takes it way too far, but studies show when people visit and call regularly, instances of elder abuse go down, and in the US elder abuse is a huge issue.

  • Emil

    I would totally disagree with this. Hopefully, if I do my job right, my children will chose to care for me in my old age but they have no obligation to do so. They did not ask to be born nor did they chose to have me as their parent.

  • keelhaulrose

    My husband’s father abandoned him at 1 1/2 and want interested in a relationship with him (or paying child support) until DH was drinking age.

    I have a great relationship with my parents, and help with my grandmother care.

    We’re not a fan of this law. I don’t know the culture in China, but here there are too many parents who did too little parenting and would be poisonous for their children.

    • KB

      I’m in a similar situation. My father left me when I was nine months old, and he never paid child support or showed any interest in me. I’ll be damned if anyone could force me to call and visit him in his old age.

  • DMH

    Uhm, no. Not happening here. I’ll totally do everything within my power to ensure that my mother and stepfather are taken care of. But when it comes to my biological father, I don’t give a damn what happens. He has two other kids that can worry about him. I’m out of that one. If I’m a horrible person for that, then so be it.

  • crankylex

    Not every senior in a nursing home is “languishing away” because their families couldn’t be bothered to care for them. WTF? There are plenty of people in nursing homes because their families are not capable of providing the care that they require for their medical conditions.

  • A-nony-mous

    I’m not for this.

    If elderly people are ‘languishing’ in nursing homes then that is on the nursing home. People pay hundreds and hundreds and even thousands of dollars a month to put their elderly kin there. If they’re skimping on care then that’s worthy of lawsuits and not the fault of those who make the mistake of trusting them.

    Not all elderly people are cute and innocent. You reap what you sow. If you were vile and rude and abusive in your younger life don’t expect people to come to your aid later in life just because you can’t wipe or bathe yourself. Once my mother gets old enough to go into a home I have little intention to visit her because, to me, that is what she’s earned through a lifetime of verbal and emotional abuse. She drove my father off. She drove my sibling off. She drove me off. She never once has apologized or admitted anything and insists it’s everyone else around her that’s Bipolar or mentally ill. I would not be pleased to be forced into caring for her simply because she reaches some chronological age that puts her rights above my right to live my life.

    This law is for people 60 and over. The average lifespan in China is 74. So the adult children are now mandated to care for their parents for easily 14 years or more? What if the parent lives to be 90? The child has to care for the parent for 30+ years? Why bother even moving out of your parents house since you’ll just as soon be snapped back to care for them full-time and alone for most of your adult life.

    Not everyone is equipped to be a caregiver. Forcing it is MORE likely to end up in elder abuse, just like forcing people to have children doesn’t instantly make everyone maternal or paternal and tends to result in more abuse and neglect.

  • C.J.

    I would not like this. My grandmother is not a nice person. My parents make sure she is taken care of properly. They have a great line of communication with the retirement home she lives in. They bring her everything she needs and go for short visits here and there. Mostly my dad just pops in and checks on her. She is my mother’s mother but my mother can’t handle her. I can’t bring my kids there any more because they are afraid of her. They hardly know her because she has spent the last decade only talking to us if she needs something. Once she needed care we were summoned. Every time one of us was going through a difficult time she wanted nothing to do with us. My mom had cancer, then blood clots in the lungs, I had a stroke, my sister had a baby die. She wasn’t there. When she needs us we are supposed to drop everything. She is actually not speaking to me right now because I couldn’t go get her a loaf of bread right when she wanted it. I was busy attending a nine olds funeral that was killed in a car crash. The little girl was close to my daughters and we are close to the family. To my grandmother her loaf of bread was more important. She is provided all her meals and snacks at the home, it’s not like she was going to starve. She just likes to make food in her kitchenette. If she just started being like this in her old age it might be more excusable. She has always been like this. She doesn’t even seem to care that my kids don’t want to see her. I talk to my own mother every day and will always. Sometimes people get what they give.

  • Kitiem3000

    I ‘kind’ of see the point, after all, we require families to take care of their children by law, why not the elderly? But I can see a lot more arguments against then for.

    • meteor_echo

      See, the thing is: if the parents were supportive of the child and loved that child and actually cared, the child will be supporting the parents anyway, because of love it feels for them. However, if somebody is abandoned by their kid, it most likely means they’ve been a shitty parent and the kid wants to avoid them at all costs. In the small-ish chance that the child is an actual jerk – would you like to be taken care of by a jerk? I’d rather be alone.

    • Amber

      I did not choose to have my parents, I chose to have my children. That’s the difference.

  • Amanda

    Yup, have to agree with the other comments and say I am not a fan. I will ensure that my mother and father have the best care possible, but I have never gotten along with either parent for my entire life. My dad is a bigoted, ‘Godly’ man (I’m agnostic and want nothing to do with religion while that is all that spews out of his mouth), and my mother suffers from severe paranoid schizophrenia. I had to help care for my mother from the time I was 6 up until 4 months ago and I’m 20 now. She can become extremely violent and hostile, and that’s not something I am willing to subject my future children to, along with my dad’s disgusting conservative views on gay marriage/gay orientation altogether and women’s rights.

    • jsterling93

      Same here. My father was great but he died a few years ago and since then it has become m job to cater to my mother. She has a personality disorder and is flt out cruel. In one statement she was able to lay on guilt that she needs me while also making sure I understood that no one else, including my brand new baby, would ever want me and that eventually my husband, who is too good for me, would grow tired and throw me away. Why exactly would I want to be the one to take care of her? Not all nursing homes are bad places.

  • meteor_echo

    No, no no no no no. Fuck this with a Prometheus-version facehugger. My father is the guy who threatened to kill me at 15, and because of whom I started burning myself with cigarettes (it helped me calm down and cope with the horrors that he unleashed on me). If I were required by law to care for him, I think I’d poison him beforehand or set up an accident.
    A law that forces non-monetary kind of relations upon people is a shitty law and must be overturned.

  • Lastango

    This is taxation-by-other-means. China is a powderkeg of economic and social trouble, and is conscripting families to assume the burdens.

  • The Great Queen Spider

    One of my grandmothers is perfectly fine on their own. The other hates me for no other reason than I don’t take after the side of her stupid family. Both my grandfathers are dead so that’s not an issue. I’m talking about grandparents because my parents aren’t old.

  • Lou

    My father sexually abused me for years. I haven’t spoken to him for years because of this.
    If I were forced to care for him, physically or financially because the government decided to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong, then that would be nothing short of absolutely disgusting.

  • Tea

    My mother threw me out, broke my wrist, left me with PTSD from her abusive outbreaks, still belittles me at every opportunity and can’t be happy unless everyone else is miserable. I don’t owe her a thing.

    • JLH1986

      :( This makes me hurt for you.

  • Paul White

    Even leaving out abuse, what if the children are struggling? I mean it isn’t like every family stays close by, or can actually stay close by. If your jobs take you away from your folks, and they don’t want to move…I’d hate to have to go visit mine in Houston every month, that’s a 10 hour drive or a pricy plane ticket.

  • Amber

    I would literally rather die than be forced to visit my parents.

  • shaz

    I have been on both sides of the coin, in as much as my mother was an abusive woman right through my childhood, she ended up in a home, although as dementia set in I did visit regularly. My mother in-law was a wonderful lady who made it easy to love her. She lived with us for 15, years passing away in my arms in her own room. I think it depends on the family dynamics and the relationship with parents. No way could I, would I, have had my own mother living with me. But that said I did make sure she was well looked after. I would resent my mother more if I was forced to look after, and she would have continued to abuse the situation.

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