China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Based on 130 family dementia caregivers’ experiences within 20 months’ ethnography, this paper discusses family politics in dementia-care decision-making by examining gender roles and family relationships in Shanghai, China. Dementia has recently become an increasing public health concern in China due to its rapid increase and its medicalization as a stigmatized mental illness. Meanwhile, the Chinese government mandated family responsibility for eldercare in the 2013 Elder Protection Law. Little is known about the tensions that arise due to different understandings of what dementia-care is and how it should be arranged as well as how these tensions are solved by family members. In exploring dementia-care arrangement, I first analyze how family dementia caregiving is perceived by male caregivers (n=59) and female caregivers (n=71). In addition to their inner motivations, I find gender-based family caregiving is based on the dementia knowledge, financial calculation and risk-avoidance. In investigating the effect of family relations in dementia-care arrangement, I find caregivers are primarily spouses, followed by daughters, sons, and paid home-aids. This arrangement challenges the traditional assumption that sons are the primary caregivers for older parents. When adult-children are the primary caregivers, their decision-making processes are often intertwined with family property inheritance rights, indicating changing care norms in China. By delving into the complex decision-making process of family caregiving arrangement, this paper seeks to reveal that existing eldercare patterns arises not only from internal conviction, but also from reconfiguration of social norms, which creates possibilities for other kinds of family politics in contemporary China.