Family Caregivers’ Elder Care: Understanding Their Hard Time and Care Burden

/ / South Korea, South Korea Featured Category, Understanding and Measuring Care
Nurse holding an elderly patient's hand

In response to the imminent aging problem in South Korea, the National Long-Term Care Insurance (NLTCI) system was introduced in 2008. The goal of the NLTCI was to give support to the families who are taking care of their elderly. The burden of family care can be grouped into four broad categories – unpaid and at home, paid and at home, paid and in facility, and unpaid visit of the family when care recipient is in facilities. Moon et al (2019) focus on the challenges faced by providers of unpaid care within families – unpaid care by family members is the most prevalent form of elderly care in Korean society.

Korean’s attitudes or thoughts on the family care responsibility of their old parents have changed surprisingly as time passed. In 1998, 89.9% of Koreans agreed with the idea that the care responsibility of their old parents belongs to the family. In 2014, the figure dropped to about a third of the population – only 34.1% of surveyed adults agreed to share the responsibility. The authors take this trend and generational gap as the departure point for their qualitative analysis of the difficulties faced by caregivers, with a view that there might be a clash or inconsistency in the care behaviors of the family members or in their ways of thinking on elderly care.

Using a combination of oral history and in-depth interviews, Moon et al (2019) shed light on the increasing burden of labor force participation and aging parents and in-laws on Korean women. Many elderly persons need attention and care continuously for 24 hours – in this regard the public care service providers provide limited relief as they work for only three hours at a time. In addition to the public-private and paid-unpaid differences in the burden of care, the authors draw attention to the difficulty of deciding who in the family takes up the responsibility. In many cases, the traditional caretaker roles fulfilled by the daughters-in-law have shifted to the daughters of the elderly. Social norms also contributed to the disproportionate caretaking burden borne by women.

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