China has recently passed a law that requires adult children to visit their elderly parents on a regular basis. If they do not, they run the risk of being sued. This new law in China is not specific regarding frequency of visits, but neglect or ignore your parent and you could risk court action.
As in South Africa and the rest of the world, the population in China is rapidly ageing. It is estimated that in thirty years time, a quarter of the population will be aged 65 years and more, and the burden of care will fall on younger generations. China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its ageing population. With the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, there are few affordable options, such as retirement villages or old age homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.
China curbed population growth by introducing the family planning and one-child policy. With longer life expectancy and fewer children being born, it means that the number of people providing for the elderly is rapidly diminishing.
It is very sad that the abandonment or neglect of the elderly appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. Is this a result of the world we live in – where it is all too common that children move away – to other cities and other countries? Children grow up and parents grow down. As some parents age, they are at risk of losing their ability to think and act as well as they did before. Some children are unable to cope with this, although the majority of children are good about helping their parents through the ageing process.
The National Care Planning Council in the USA has this story to tell:
An elderly woman who lived alone, waited everyday for her son to write to her. She kept telling herself, “Tomorrow I will get a letter from him.” Then tomorrow came along with an empty mailbox. She loved her son though, and said she would never lose hope. One day as she feebly opened the mailbox, she was surprised by a letter inside. She hurriedly began to make her way back inside her house to read the letter when she had a heart attack. A neighbor rushed to her aid as the elderly woman smiled and said just before she died, “My son sent me a letter. I knew he would.” The neighbor then opened the letter to see what the son had written to his mother. The son had not written that he loved her or that he missed her. The letter contained only information about the date on which the son was planning to send his mother to a nursing home so she wouldn’t have to live alone anymore.
The co-owner of the National Care Planning Council said, “In the story told, it was easy for the son to keep himself emotionally distant and caught up in his own life. It was simple for him to decide to toss his mother in a nursing home to save her from the loneliness he had himself caused. The tragedy is, it would have been just as simple and just as easy to write his mother just one letter once a month expressing his love for her.
Is it time or is it money? It is hard enough to pay your bills and save for retirement, especially in these difficult economic times. Juggling responsibilities and providing financial support for elderly parents is a tough one. It could be your time that is in demand. To take time off to care for an ageing parent can result in lost wages and benefits, and could put your job at risk. Is it our duty to provide love, care and shelter for ageing parents?
There can be huge difficulties, stress and pain when it comes to caring for ageing parents, but one should never allow one’s absence in their lives to lead to neglect.
Could a new law like the one in China be worthwhile in South Africa? This could act as a reality check for those children who choose to neglect or ignore their parents.
Do you have a story to tell about the difficulties of caring for ageing parents?