A conference to address the growing need for care services for the elderly was held in Taipei yesterday.
Delegates at the International Conference of Intermediate Care said the development of intermediate care services is a natural outcome of the nation’s aging population.
Speakers said the elderly, who do not recover from illnesses or trauma well and therefore experience high hospital re-admission rates, increasingly need post-acute care services after short-term treatment for illness or an urgent medical condition.
The English model of care, based on National Service Framework for Older People was introduced by the Veterans Hospital Network in 2007.
The paper states that post-acute or intermediate care is to provide “integrated services to promote faster recovery from illness, prevent unnecessary acute hospital admissions, support timely discharge and maximize independent living.”
In contrast, Taiwan’s healthcare system has been acute-care and disease-oriented, Chen Liang-kung (陳亮恭), director of the Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) said yesterday.
“It is also one that encourages specialty-based practices and lacks a well-established referral system,” he said. “Another challenge that our aging society faces is the waning of the trend of family members being the main caregivers.”
This characteristic and the lack of the integration of healthcare services, together with the multiple diseases and disabilities often suffered by the elderly result in older people’s “fragmented hospital visits” and poor recovery from acute illnesses, the Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology said.
Chen said that studies have shown that after the completion of short-term acute treatment, between 25 percent and 35 percent of discharged older patients lost the ability to perform at least one kind of daily living activity and that between 20 percent and 25 percent are more emotionally distressed than they were before they were admitted.
“It has also been found that there is a high mortality rate of 36 percent during the 12 months following treatment, 25 percent were readmitted within three months, and many had an unnecessarily early placement in long-term care institutions,” Chen said.
Of the nearly 3,000 patients who received intermediate care services from the Veterans Hospital Network in the past five years (2009 to this year), 60 percent are able to return home and 50 percent can enjoy independent living, the center said.
At the conference, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that it would launch a National Health Insurance-covered post-acute care service pilot program for stroke patients next year.