European expert warns seeking care for older people will become ‘catastrophic’ if we fail to proactively plan



A leading researcher of long-term care in Europe has stated Ireland is at a juncture that presents a window of opportunity to proactively plan now for its rapidly ageing society and it can learn from the experiences of European neighbours. Kai Leichsenring, Associate Senior Researcher at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy & Research, who is based in Vienna, is a keynote speaker at the Nursing Homes Ireland Annual Conference 2014, which will take place tomorrow, 6th November at Citywest Hotel, Co Dublin.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar will also address the 400 delegates from the private and voluntary nursing home sector who will attend the NHI Annual Conference 2014. The full line-up of speakers can be viewed here.
Mr Leichsenring stated: “Demographically speaking, Ireland is currently in a position which I would still call a ‘window of opportunity’ to pro-actively plan for a now rapidly ageing society. Many European countries tried to use their ‘window of opportunity’ - but many did not - during the 1990s, and Ireland could learn a lot from success and also from failure in this regard. A public debate is needed to decide how to plan and implement the right and appropriate care to individuals at the right time and at the right place and how to secure resources for long-term care in a fair society.

“Needing long-term care is likely to become a catastrophic event for an individual and his or her family if the appropriate planning is not implemented now. This entails not only the general foundation of financing long-term care, but also the way in which services and facilities are funded and regulated. Fair Deal might be a first step, but without investing in the necessary infrastructure, equal access will be hampered and this will have enormous repercussions for employment, productivity and the general ‘social climate’.

“The long tradition of health care systems that are able to cure ever more diseases and to further extend our life expectancy must be seen as a major success of our societies. This success comes however with social, economic and individual costs represented by a growing number of older people with chronic diseases and a need for long-term care, and with rising public and private expenditures for health care. Neither healthcare nor social security systems are well prepared to deal with these consequences, thus placing huge pressure on family carers and other types of informal care that remain the backbone of long-term care delivery. We need to develop integrated long-term care systems at the interface between health and social care, and between formal and informal care to deal with the challenges of an ageing society, caregivers’ burden and high care costs.”

Mr Leichsenring is available for further interview. Contact Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Officer at 087 9082970 or (01) 4292570.


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