Thursday, August 08, 2013

Care of elderly and the welfare state

The author of The Welfare State We're In is writing a new book. His latest post coincides with my earlier topic this week prompted by discussions on Radio Live about elder care:

What do you do about granny?

I have just finished the first draft of the chapter on care for the elderly for my new book. So here is a quiz question: what is the range -  among different European countries – of the percentage of women aged over 65 and without a partner/husband who are living with one of their adult children? When I have asked people this question, they have mostly been totally wrong about both ends of the range. The statistics are indeed extraordinary. Please have a guess. The answer is revealed later on.

The chapter was really difficult to write. First,  the subject is depressing. It is grim to come across figures showing how many people in residential care are clinically depressed and wish they were dead. It is sad to read of the loneliness. Second, it is tough or impossible to come up with a simple answer to fit all situations. There is so much variety in the condition and preferences of people over 65. But it does seem to me that many countries have been too eager to give up the family as a unit which can provide comfort and care to elderly parents. It is strange – but I think is true – that supposedly backward Greece, Portugal, Spain (and Italy) may have been right while  ‘advanced’ Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden (and the EU which has encouraged institutional care) may have been wrong.

The answer: the range of percentages is from 3% in Denmark to 61% in Portugal (research report dated 2000). Quite an astonishing range, I think. It shows how the behaviour of people is strongly influenced by their welfare states. We should not assume that the cultures of these countries were always different with regard to the elderly. There is reason to believe that all cultures, including the Scandinavian,  used to look after their elderly parents. Now I am moving on to crime and civil behaviour. I would be grateful for any input or experience from any country about how these things are now or how they have changed in the past 30, 40 or more years.

For example: if you go to public buildings like a post office or hospital in your country, is there a sign warning you not to abuse the staff? But I would be delighted to hear about any other perceptions you may have about crime or behaviour or, indeed, how the concepts of virtue or duty are doing in your country.
And this country?

New Zealand "has previously reported high rates of residential aged care relative to other OECD countries."

(Actually it won't be about "Granny". It'll be about Mum or Dad. I don't know why it's so fraught. But I've yet to meet the harsh realities some face.)


Brendan said...

Hi Lindsay

I think this is a case of reaping what we sow. If we have loved on our children and grand children, sacrificed for them, and taught them to accept responsibility as citizens and as family members, we might hope for their compassion and care in our old age.

If we have relied upon the State, then we have all that we deserve and more.

Anonymous said...

Care of the aged - the "Codger Dole" is the biggest problem in NZ's entire welfare mess.

Why should you get the dole til the day before your 59th birthday and then a much larger codger dole? Makes on sense: you're a bludger either way.

Get rid of that - ideally by simply abolishing it - those over 60, say, no longer eligible for any government support whatsoever - and families will have to take responsibility for their older members.

Kokila Patel said...

I am Indian, and families often live together, so not uncommon for a wife to move in with the in-laws have kids and all raised in the same household. Which is how I grew up, so my grandparents have always lived in a home. I am now 40, with husband and 4 children. We both work, and put my single mother-in-law in a rest home. She is not that elderly, but has a mild form of dementia. We probably won't have to concern ourselves with my father-in-law as his wife is much younger. My parents still have both their mothers. One lives with them, and the other still lives in India (we rely on family and friends for her care when required) My parents are recently retired, and I imagine they won't require any care until I have retired, so maybe I will be in a state to care for them. I don't know the fate of my siblings who don't have their own children. So the result just isn't the increased in institutional care. We are more mobile, we change relationships more, we work more, we don't all have children...

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Kokila, Your comment typifies the experience of many people regardless of culture. The world is changing rapidly and trying to lay rhyme and reason over social change is possibly futile.

Anonymous said...

trying to lay rhyme and reason over social change is possibly futile

Except here the chain of cause and effect is plain for all to see. Universal suffrange leads inevitably to universal welfare leads inevitably to the destruction of the family.

Jigsaw said...

Surely housing has a lot to do with it. Many people don't have houses that enable them to have their grandparents living with them. Personaly my experience was negative. I recall my grandmother living with us and it wasn't a pleasant time at all so there is no way I would want to live with my adult children besides I am far more active and independent than my grandparents were at the same age. From about 60 my grandmother wore black and just sat around most of the time-at 72 I am not at all like that!

twr said...

"if you go to public buildings like a post office or hospital in your country, is there a sign warning you not to abuse the staff?"

If you read between the lines on these signs, what they're actually saying is "Don't you care comment or complain about the service you get for your money or you're out on your ear. You'll get what you're given when it suits us, and you'll like it". Such a surprise for a govt run monopoly.