Chinese caregiving burden and the future burden of elder care in life-course perspective

Heying Jenny Zhan
International Journal of Aging & Human Development 2002, 54 (4): 267-90
This article uses the life course perspective to combine micro- and macro-levels of analysis of caregiving burdens experienced by Chinese baby-boom cohort and then explores their elder care prospects. Based on survey interviews during 1997 and 1998 with 110 caregivers providing care to dependent parents or parents-in-law, this study finds that lower family income, fewer family members to assist with parental care, and care-recipients' higher levels of disability are contributors to higher levels of caregiver financial burden. Caregivers' greater involvement in provision of personal care contributes to their higher levels of objective burden. Interestingly, as duration of providing care lengthened, a reduction is noted in caregivers' subjective burden. Caregivers' report of social pressure in provision of parental care was found to increase their subjective burden. One can conclude that larger family size has been an important factor in relieving caregiver financial burden in the current caregiving situation when financial stress presents a major challenge to families with dependent elders under recent economic reforms. However, the lack of siblings to assist parental care in the future is likely to produce unimaginable stress on caregivers, creating not only financial burden but also objective and subjective burdens. In conclusion, the author suggests that social policy and service facilities at the macro-level, along with family size and cohesion at the micro-level, will be important factors helping determine the future effectiveness of elder care provision for baby boomers in China.

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