The Long-Term Care System for Older Individuals: From the 1930’s to Today

I’m so glad to see you all here today for the first of two seminars that will systematically explore care provision in the United States today from multiple perspectives. We start from a fundamental commitment to social justice—the belief that we all deserve equal respect and unless there are specific reasons for doing so (like needs-based distribution of housing vouchers) likes ought to be treated alike. The “non-system system” of care provision fails on both counts.

I would like to note that I am using the word care as it has been developed among feminist ethicists as a shared commitment of mutual respect, competency in care provision and honoring the moral obligations on which relationships of unequal power rest. Feminist ethicists see us not as completely separate, independent and autonomous individuals but as essentially vulnerable to one another and enmeshed in relationships of care.  More about these views in the second seminar but I wanted to mention it this morning since the use of the word care may represent a difference among aging and disability communities.

My own work for many years has been at the nexus of ethics and policy with a particular focus on gender and age.  So it is no surprise that I have been critical of the ways in which our long-term care system is built around the care provided by family members, mostly women, and low paid women. How and why this is so tells us a great deal about the perpetuation of inequalities that persist no matter how much change has occurred in gender or race relations. It also tells us a great deal about the persistence of privilege that allows those with power to be absolved from noticing and empathizing with people whose lives are distinctly non-privileged.  It was what allowed a legislator during the debate on Medicaid in 1965 to ask—unchallenged– “who wouldn’t want their beds made and their meals prepared,” as if he ever did either.

– Health & Medicine

Read the full article here.