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Analysing care systems for the elderly across the globe

The human population is ageing, thanks to the quality of life improving worldwide through effective care systems – and so many medical advancements being seen, too.

It’s vital that elderly citizens are looked after as they reach their later years in order to keep them comfortable and happy as they age. This level of care will change from one country to the next though, as we explore in this article…

Care systems seen throughout the UK

Staggered care is popular across the UK, easing elderly citizens into accepting care. When individuals are beginning to struggle, perhaps with making meals or getting washed, they can access help from home. This is in the form of specially trained carers who visit those in need at their own homes to provide necessary care. 

For older people who require more assistance, the UK is also seeing more and more specially designed homes and flat complexes being built. These often have a community room where residents can socialise and a warden that is present during the day. The homes are specially designed for those who are less able, with non-slip floors, stairlifts and apparatus to help with getting up from the toilet and in and out of the shower. Care systems - an elderly resident laughs with staff

Nursing homes with round the clock care is the next step for the nation’s elderly citizens. None of the services are free, although some people aged over 65 get help towards the costs and others use their savings. At the moment, people with assets of more than £23,250 have to pay for the full cost of their care (this includes the value of their home).  

This system will vary from one region to the next throughout the UK, mind. For example, in Northern Ireland, care in the home is free for people over the age of 75. For over 65s in Scotland, personal care is free if people are assessed as needing help for tasks like washing, dressing and preparing meals. 

Care systems seen throughout the US

A largely private system complete with care insurance is the key element of the US’ health care system for its elderly citizens. There is also a programme called Medicaid that assists with medical costs for those with limited resources — covering nursing home care. This system pays for 61% of nursing-home residents’ care. Elderly care is a key consideration that must be made by many. In the US, 47% of men and 58% of women who are of or above retirement age will experience a need for long-term care in the future.

Close to 90% of senior citizens surveyed also said that they wished to remain in their own homes as they get older. Care insurance often can assist with this, as it pays for home help such as the installing of curved or straight stairlifts depending on the layout of the property, as well as washing and cooking support. Even when elderly people begin to require day-to-day assistance such as getting dressed, only 4% said that they would prefer to move into a relatives’ home over staying in their own surroundings. Despite this low figure, 75% of adult children think about their parents’ abilities to live independently and presumably consider their future options. These children contribute between $7,000 and $14,000 per year to care for an ageing parent. 

Across the US, nursing homes are another option for the nation’s elderly citizens. Many of these are funded by private healthcare. 11.2% of women over the age of 85 lived in a nursing home in 2014 and this figure stood at 6.1% for men of the same age group. 

Care systems seen throughout Canada

According to statistics released in 2016, the number of over 65s in Canada exceeded the number of under 15s for the first time — 16.9% to 16.6%. When looking at health expenditure as a whole, Canada has invested more funds into drugs rather than hospitals and physicians over the past 30 years and this could count towards their ageing population. 

Canada’s healthcare system is largely publicly funded, as a result of taxing. The capital of Canada, Ottawa, promised to spend $6 billion over the next decade in order to address their ageing population and help with home-care programmes — a move that should help the nation’s elderly citizens make their properties more accessible through the installation of such features as a disabled stairlift and aids to assist them in the bathroom and kitchen. 

Elderly citizens throughout Canada are quite reliant on nurses to provide care at the moment too. This is causing more pressure on nurses and carers and the demand for these workers is predicted to rise from just under 64,000 full-time jobs to 142,000 by 2035. Perhaps these stretched resources are the reason why more Canadians are taking on the role of caregiver and offering informal care for their own parents. In fact, 30% of workers with older parents take 450 hours per year of time off work — putting a strain on their own careers and on employers. 

Care systems seen throughout Italy

Acorn care systems - an elderly resident with a young boyThere’s a different elderly care system seen throughout Italy. The care of elders is said to be the responsibility of a person’s family and therefore care homes are not as popular as in other countries (less than 2% of the senior population use care home services). In fact, Italian institutions often only intervene if the person has no family to care for them. 

It was once a tradition in Italy for women to provide the majority of the care to their family members. However, they are now taking up employment and their time is spent working instead — creating a greater reliance on public care facilities. The mentality of family care was evident in 2004 when the majority of Italians thought that it would be beneficial if adult children looked after their older parents when they became reliant. It is likely that this mentality has continued many years later. 

Unlike many other nations, Italy doesn’t have as much of a staggered care system. This means that elderly people who are fairly fit live in regular homes that have not been adjusted for needs of the older generation. However, in the 1990s, a greater focus was given to elderly people and their specific needs. This saw the introduction of a new framework which includes home care, day centres and nursing homes and now, over 5% of older Italians use at-home care services. 

Care systems seen throughout Belgium

A lot of the care that’s available to Belgium’s elderly citizens is presented via a public system. This system is funded by social contributions and general taxes. There is also a large amount of informal care that is offered by family members of elderly residents. The general aim amongst Belgians is to keep the older generation in their own homes, comfortably, for as long as possible. 

Belgium has a staggered care system as well, by offering its elderly citizens with ‘service flats’. This is where elderly people can live within their own space but have access to useful facilities such as home help and cooked meals if they need it. There is also the option of day care and short stay centres and this provides families with some respite from care.

An initiative known as ‘kangaroo housing’ is also well-established throughout Belgium. This has been around for 30 years and involves older people living together with immigrant families in the same house on separate floors. The immigrant family help the elderly person out if they are ever in need. One project was launched in a Belgian district called Molenbeek where 60% of the population are immigrants and 25% are retired.  It can benefit both parties in terms of improving their sense of belonging in the community and overall well-being.

Care systems seen throughout Germany 

Germany is yet another nation with an ageing population. Recent predictions suggest that there will be more than 23 million citizens over the age of 65 between 2035. 

A standout initiative across this country involves both their elderly citizens and refugees. Between 2015 and 2016, 1.2 million asylum seekers entered Germany, most aged between 18 and 34 years old. A training scheme is in place where refugees are being taught how to care for the elderly. This addresses their aging population and the immigrants who are looking for work.

Cohabiting is another of Germany’s schemes when analysing their care systems. When surveyed, 82% of Germans said that they did not want to grow old in a nursing home. Grants that were introduced in January 2013 allow the elderly to live in a community apartment with one another, cohabiting and socialising when they want to. This decreases their likelihood of becoming lonely without placing them in a full-time care home.

We must also make mention of Germany’s multigeneration houses. These structures are made up of a kindergarten, a social centre for the elderly and somewhere for young families to drop in for socialising or support. Pensioners can volunteer to read to the children and interact with them through singing and games. 

It’s abundantly clear that care systems for elderly citizens certainly differ at the moment depending on the part of the world that we’re focusing on. And what does the future hold for our older generations? Innovative concepts such as elderly friendly supermarkets and villages are popping up in some places, as countries continue to reach out to older people and try to improve their quality of life. 



Related articles: 

CQC publishes its review of how local health and social care systems work together in Northamptonshire 

Designing safer systems of care delivery for older patients

How is the social care sector being revolutionised by new technology?

How the introduction of new technology has improved patient safety

August LTD
Grahame Gardner
Mr Trax Curtain & Blind Solutions
Inspired Inspirations
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