We will all get old -- and then what?

According to Estonian law, children must look after their parents or grandparents when they get old. The majority cannot afford a nursing home. Hence the parliament proposes a new project  -- special insurance for the elderly.

Marta Tuul
Marta Tuul Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
We will all get old -- and then what? - NewsMavens
An old lady. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The law in Estonia states that children and grandchildren must take care of their elderly parents. In practice, they often have to quit their careers and take up the new task full-time.

Last year, 10,592 Estonians were forced to leave paid employment and stay home to care for a loved one. Another 100,000 people looked after their elder relatives after work.

Perhaps it would be more beneficial for the Estonian economy  if these people worked and paid taxes instead of spending their life taking care of others? Nursing homes would be a valid solution but in Estonia the fees are at least triple the state pension.

A few years ago, our family faced a similar dilemma. My grandmother's health deteriorated and she could no longer live alone. So, like many other Estonians, we invited her to live with us.

Surprisingly, at one point she asked us, whether she could live in a nursing facility. On the one hand, I was disappointed. Did it mean that she didn’t want to spend her last years with her loved ones? Why? Later I understood that it was a question only a young person could ask. 

She explained that she would prefer a hospital or a nursing home with trained staff because she did not want to be a burden for her children. It turned out that she also missed company. "Dear child, even old people want to socialize with their peers. I can't do that sitting at home with you all day," she explained.

I could not argue with that. After waiting more than six months for a free spot at a nursing home, we paid almost the equivalent of the average wage in Estonia, which was then four times as much as her pension.

We live in a world where nations are growing older and older and having large numbers of children is not that popular anymore. At some point, we will all have to face the question -- who will take care of us? I highly recommend the following article because it introduces the Estonian Parliament's recent proposal to make elderly care a state responsibility. The crucial first step is a special insurance program for the elderly.

Details from the story:

  • Estonian family law states that children or grandchildren have to take care of their parents, if they can't cope with daily life themselves.
  • Last year, about 10,592 Estonians were forced to leave paid employment to stay home and look after their older relatives.
  • Another 100,000 people took care of someone after work.
  • The parliament has introduced a state insurance that would cover old age care.
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