Academic journal article Generations

Paid Family Caregiving: A Practical and Ethical Conundrum

Academic journal article Generations

Paid Family Caregiving: A Practical and Ethical Conundrum

Article excerpt

Families, in particular women, have ushered babies into the world, soothed feverish adults, and tended to the dying. For most of our history, family caregiving was a central fact of life. Today, long-termcare policy in the United States is built around the informal care provided by wives, daughters, daughters-in-law, and sometimes sons. Public policy, which tries to balance the responsibility of individuals, families, and the state in meeting human needs, has treated homecare as a residual public responsibility available primarily through Medicaid.

For the past decade or so, social and economic changes have challenged the long-held assumption that women would be available to care for the sick and the dying. Women are in the labor force in ever-growing numbers; they often have children later and so are caught in the middle between obligations to their own immediate family and to the generation now old. It may be that younger women-the "baby boomers"will be less likely to have a strong sense of obligation as a result of the cultural values that dominated as they grew into adulthood. In spite of these changes, women now provide 72 percent of the "informal" care; to do so they often must reduce the hours they work for pay, rearrange their work schedules, take time off without pay (the option available to them under the Family and Maternal Lave Act), or quit their jobs to resolve conflicts between work and caregiving.

We offer this set of articles on paid family caregiving for several reasons. As a start, the topic is laden with ethical questions that point to the limits of autonomy understood as free and unfettered choice and the power of extemal forces like the gender-biased labor market or public policy to occasion a morally problematic environment. We also offer this discussion because paid family caregiving will continue to surface as a matter of practice and policy as the need for homecare workers accelerates and the availability of such workers declines. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.