The most recent issue of TIME magazine caught our eye today, because of an article on China and U.S. relations, to accompany President Obama’s visits this week to the largest and most influential Asian nation.
In the article “Five Things the U.S. Can Learn from China,” writer Bill Powell listed “Look After the Elderly” (pg. 3 online) as the third lesson to learn – which so many of us at Comfort Keepers know firsthand is vitally important to the future of our country.
Powell gave his own personal perspective on the difference between each country’s treatment of seniors, saying:
“It’s hard to imagine two societies that deal with their elderly as differently as the U.S. and China. And I can vouch for that firsthand. My wife Junling is a Shanghai native, and last month for the first time we visited my father at a nursing home in the U.S. She was shaken by the experience and later told me, ‘You know, in China, it’s a great shame to put a parent into a nursing home.’
In China the social contract has been straightforward for centuries: parents raise children; then the children care for the parents as they reach their dotage. When, for example, real estate developer Jiang Xiao Li and his wife recently bought a new, larger apartment in Shanghai, they did so in part because they know that in a few years, his parents will move in with them. Jiang’s parents will help take care of Jiang’s daughter, and as they age, Jiang and his wife will help take care of them.” 1
The writer goes on to examine some of the reasons for increased national need for in-home senior care, especially as the U.S. becomes what he characterizes as a “mobile and rootless society.” High costs for nursing home care and soaring numbers of elderly citizens are paired with many adult children’s desire to provide parents with the kind of love and support that many Chinese citizens consider a matter of duty.
The TIME article continues, speaking with Arnold Eppel, a leading researcher and expert on America’s aging population:
“Home care for the elderly will most likely make a comeback in the U.S. out of sheer economic necessity, however. The number of elderly Americans will soar from 38.6 million in 2007 to 71.5 million in 2030. But, says Arnold Eppel, who recently retired as head of the department of aging in Baltimore County, Maryland, ‘There won’t be enough spots for them’ in the country’s overwhelmed nursing-home system. Appreciating the magnitude of the coming crisis, the U.S. government has begun to respond. Two new initiatives — Nursing Home Diversion and Money Follows the Person — expand subsidies for home elder care, and the Veterans Health Administration has just put in effect its own similar initiative. ‘The whole trend will be into home care, because nursing homes are too expensive,’ Eppel says, noting that nursing-home care in the U.S. costs about $85,000 annually per resident.” 2
When thousands of American readers of TIME consider these statistics – both in the context of cultural background and as simply a matter of caring for one’s own – it becomes clear that we’re on to something here at Comfort Keepers. Franchisees, employees and clients already know how important service to seniors is today.
Our challenge is to continue to study best senior care practices, publicize our role in this increasingly important societal change and truly serve our mission by providing excellent service to seniors.
Read the whole article from TIME here.
Powell, Bill. ““Five Things the U.S. Can Learn from China.” TIME Nov. 12, 2009. Time.com. 20 Nov. 2009. <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1938671-3,00.html#ixzz0XE0k5INy>