Earlier this summer, an unusual new law went into effect in China. Specifically, the law requires children to care for their elderly parents and even mandates regular visits and phone calls. If a child fails to care for his or her parents, they could face mediation or even a lawsuit. According to Chinese reports, the purpose of the law is not only to protect the interests of those over the age of 60, but also to ensure the continuance of the Chinese tradition of filial piety.
Although this law has been described as particularly Chinese by some experts, its purpose resonates here in the U.S., where it is becoming increasingly important to take steps to outline an elder care plan.
The primary impetus for the Chinese law is the large number of people who are moving from the countryside to find work in growing cities or even in other countries. The problem is that China faces a large elderly population with few care options available. By requiring children to check in on their parents, the hope is that the state will not have to step in to provide care on a large scale.
In the U.S., it often happens that children move to different parts of the country to pursue education or careers. As a result, long term planning about powers of attorney or healthcare directives for aging parents can sometimes become an afterthought. The new Chinese law is a reminder that families should discuss these issues and plan for the future sooner rather than later.
Source: Businessweek.com, “Why China Is Ordering Adult Children to Visit Their Parents,” Bruce Einhorn, July 2, 2013