Monday, July 15, 2013

Should Parental Care Be Mandatory?

The Guardian reprinted Katharine Whitehorn's Observer comment on China's decision to fine people who fail to care for their aged parents:

Elizabeth Barrette comments:

Excellent points are made in both articles. But as an adult who did learn the skills and has tried to be available when my parents needed help, I think the United States is much further away from being able to expect family loyalty to kick in than some other countries seem to be.

In the United States, although disabled veterans who depend on V.A. pensions can pay their spouses or children the same wages they would pay strangers, other disabled people who depend on Social Security have never been able to offer any compensation to their loyal family members. The thinking is that if spouses and adult offspring are really willing and able to help a disabled American, they'll do it "for love" and not expect wages.

Thus a great-uncle's widow, who had nine adult sons and daughters and a few dozen grandchildren all of whom did visit her whenever possible, at least once a week, could only pay me for home nursing. I had other odd jobs and no children to support; some of this honorary aunt's children and grandchildren had children to support and no other jobs. Several of them were certified nursing assistants, some with more experience than I had. But the law required her to pay me and not them. And some of those cousins haven't spoken to me since she died.

In the United States we might begin with removing the financial penalty from family loyalty. If Social Security pays for someone who has no children to pay strangers for driving, cleaning, etc., then Social Security should pay for someone who has children to pay them for driving, cleaning, etc., as long as they're willing and able to do those things.