Caring for Aging Parents – Can Love be Legislated?

Caring for Aging Parents – Can Love be Legislated?


Caring for an aging parent is not new.  For centuries,  the rule has been to honor our elders and ensure their well-being in their last years.

It’s a worthy goal but for many of us, it is complicated by the demands of juggling our own lives, especially if our parents live in another region or state.  In an economy where many people continue to work after reaching retirement age, there may not be enough time left in the working day to do more than call Dad to make sure he remembered to eat a good meal.Aging-Parent

In June 2013, China passed a law mandating adult children to provide for their aging parents’ emotional and physical needs.  Soon after, a woman was ordered to visit her 77-year-old mother at least once every two months, and on at least two national holidays a year.  

Similar laws exist around the world, including in the United States, where 20 states retain statutes that require family members (usually adult children) to support financially-needy relatives, which can include elderly parents who no longer have an income or disabled adult children who are unable to support themselves.  Most of these statutes, which are among the original laws of the states, have not been in active use since the Great Depression, but they still exist and can be enforced.

While love can’t be legislated or enforced, China’s  Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly spotlights this thorny question:  What are the obligations, rights and responsibilities of adults caring for aging parents?  

Columnist Francine Russo, writing in Time magazine (Caring for Aging Parents, Should There Be a Law?), asks, “What kind of care and devotion is expected of adult children toward their aging parents?  Not surprisingly, siblings can hold fiercely different positions about what they ‘should’ do.  Some make huge sacrifices of time and money to comfort and care for mom; others rarely show their faces even when parents pine for them.  But if families can’t resolve these difficult issues, can governments do any better?”

What do you think?  Can loving care be legislated?  How do you juggle the problem of caring for aging parents while getting everything else done? 

Source:  Caring for Aging Parents: Should There Be a Law?

by Donna Giachetti

Donna Giachetti writes frequently for ACT TWO. Her blog posts are available here.


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