The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s planned relaxation of standards for hiring foreign caretakers for respite care is too stiff in implementation, lacks sufficient funding and has a shortage of caretakers, according to the Taiwan Association of Family Caregivers.
The ministry had announced that it would relax regulations and allow an additional 180,000 people to be employed as respite care workers.
Of the nation’s 800,000 people who are disabled or diagnosed with dementia, 130,000 use long-term house care or daycare services, 100,000 are using such services provided by agencies, 240,000 hire foreign caretakers, while the remaining 330,000 are cared for by family members, association secretary-general Chen Ching-ning (陳景寧) said on Tuesday.
Aside from those who are cared for by long-term healthcare organizations or elderly individuals living alone, 650,000 individuals are in potential need of respite care, she said, adding that the 50,000 people now working in respite care is inadequate to handle the demand.
The association is advocating for a “one-day mutual respite care” program that would ultimately see groups of two, three or four families with respite care patients help each other one or two days a week.
The 2017 ministry funding — NT$300 million (US$9.8 million) — for respite care would, at NT$30,000 per person, only support 10,000 individuals, association standing executive director Chen Cheng-fen (陳正芬) said.
She also highlighted the shortage of personnel and how most respite caregivers work on a volunteer and short-term basis, stating that such a system of respite care lacked financial incentives for investment.
She urged an introduction of the “respite voucher,” which she said would return respite care choice to families caring for their own members.
“It would allow families to understand the importance of respite care,” Chen said, adding that the circulation of these vouchers would allow the market to gauge how much and what kind of services are needed.
A change of strategy was required for respite care to improve, association director Kuo Tsu-an (郭慈安) said.
Respite care organizations could target select parts of the service, such as caretaking, Kuo said, adding that it is also possible to discuss dividing personnel based on different skill sets, which would introduce different pay grades.
Companies specializing in caretaking, or dispatch services, are more proficient at short-term services, making it possible to consider relaxing regulations for such companies and encouraging more temporary caretakers, he said.
Long-term respite care must be innovative and flexible, National Chengchi University Professor Wang Tseng-yung (王增勇) said, adding that funding and choice should be given to respite care agencies.
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