A Lesson from Abroad in Long-Term Caregiving
In Canada, many aging residents struggle to cover the costs of long-term care, forced to remain at home without adequate assistance. With the rising costs associated with long-term caregiving, families are often burdened to take on the care or financial support of an aging loved one.
Several European countries, however, are making elder care a priority, on the basis that healthy citizens provide for a stronger economy. In Denmark and Sweden, almost all long-term care costs are paid for through municipal taxation and government grants. The belief is that the higher taxes are accomplishing long-term benefits for the entire country as its population ages.
In terms of population dynamics, Sweden is now where the Canadian population will be in the next twenty years. There, patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia are separated from those who do not have such a condition. The support provided to Swedish facility residents reflects that which is actually needed, and they are permitted to otherwise remain relatively independent. Support workers at long-term care homes where patients with Alzheimer’s disease are present receive extra, also publically-funded, training.
The focus of the system in Denmark is on choice and prevention. After reaching age 67, seniors are entitled to free around-the-clock home care. Public health nurses visit biannually to ensure that the senior is in good physical and mental health, in regular contact with family and friends, eating enough, and taking any prescribed medication. Once a senior chooses to move to a long-term care facility, they are able to retain supervised freedom in a facility with a “home-like feel”.
Humanitude is a French caregiving philosophy, in which eye contact, touch, and verbal communication are used to show respect for patients. Humanitude has recently been gaining attention in Japan with respect to the treatment of patients with dementia. So far, the results have included calmer and more cooperative patients.
Halifax, Edmonton, and Victoria are the first Canadian cities to implement a new model of long-term caregiving, influenced by Danish and Swedish principles. Those cities have seen better connection of physicians to care facilities and significant decreases in visits by seniors to the emergency room. Still, on a national level, some believe that Canada is in need of a complete overhaul of its long-term care system to render it adequate to meet the needs of seniors as our population ages.
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