Long-term care services are in need of novel thinking, professionals and civic groups said yesterday as they called on the government to focus on preventive and comprehensive community care rather than encouraging medicalization and institutionalization.
Deliberations over a proposed long-term care bill wrapped up last month, a step that Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) called a “crucial milestone in the development of long-term care.”
However, the Universal Care Policy Alliance said that neither the bill, which still has to go through the legislature, nor the Long-Term Care Service Network Plan that was recently launched by the government addresses the urgent needs of a fast-aging society.
These needs include “prevent and delay the onset of disabilities in old people, enhance their quality of life and ease the country’s medical burden,” the alliance said.
Alliance convener Liu Yu-hsiu (劉毓秀) said at a press conference before a public hearing yesterday that the current version of the bill is trapped in a “vicious cycle.”
“The government’s current stance on long-term care places emphasis on distributing resources to elderly people with severe disabilities, and this narrow focus can only lead to a uniformity of services, crowding out services that are preventive in nature,” Liu said.
“While severely disabled elderly people are provided with more resources such as nursing institutions, foreign caregivers and National Health Insurance, their number has also been rapidly increasing because of a lack of services that can help them lead more independent and healthy lives,” she added.
Wang Pin (王品), an assistant professor of social work at National Taipei University, said long-term care services should be divided into core and peripheral services according to the care-receivers’ needs.
While core services focus on care for elderly people with severe disabilities or dementia who require professional or medical intervention, peripheral services aim to delay and prevent disability and maintain the care-receivers’ independence, Wang said.
“Peripheral preventive care should involve community participation, which can take the form of community social events, meal-sharing or delivery, respiratory care or home-care services,” she said.
Community-based long-term care services would require more flexible rules and adapt to the needs of the communities, Wang added.
Peng Wang-ru Foundation chief executive officer Wang Hui-chu (王慧珠) emphasized the importance of continuity in the training and employment of caregivers.
“Train caregivers according to local needs and keep the jobs for local people,” Wang Hui-chu said, adding that each female who earns a salary translates into a family receiving financial support.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) and Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) voiced their support for localized services.
“The medicalization and institutionalization of long-term care, which treats the elderly as patients, turns them irreversibly into care-receivers,” Yu said.