As the holidays wind down in America, some family members may find themselves relieved to escape the presence of their parents. Here in the United States, and other Western countries, we are free to engage with our parents as much or as little as we want. However, a recently amended law in China does not grant its citizens such leeway.
Elderly Chinese parents are now legally allowed to sue their own children if they don’t come to visit them. This is another obstacle in the country’s challenge to care for its elderly, as economic reforms have splintered the traditional family unit. There is a severe lack of alternatives such as retirement homes or care facilities, and thus some parents become neglected, abused or even exploited in their old age. Across the board, it appears as if Chinese citizens have become suspicious of its elderly sect. There have been a string of incidents over the past few years in which elderly people have fallen and injured themselves, and then went on to blame and sue the good Samaritans which stopped to help them.
Why has it come to this in China? Is it simply a lack of resources and the fact that so many people are living longer these days? How does this issue translate to America? Do we need a law like this? What would you do if you were required by law to visit your parents? There’s definitely a grey area here about how to handle the drastically growing elderly population, but what is the best solution for both sides?
Dr. Laura Mosqueda M.D., Chair and Professor of Family Medicine at the UC Irvine School of Medicine