Source: Help Wanted? Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care, OECD 2011, Chapter 1, P.44.
As rates of chronic disease and ageing populations grow, so does the need for caregivers to deliver in-home care. In nearly all OECD countries, between half and three quarters of all formal long-term care (LTC) is provided in-home. And demand for that long-term care is highly age-related. According to OECD research, less than 1% of those younger than 65 years use long-term care, while after the age of 65, the probability of long-term care use increases steeply, particularly among females over 80 years old, reflecting longer life expectancies and higher survival rates.
The need for informal caregivers is growing and will continue to grow. In the coming years, those caregivers will be faced with the difficult task of balancing caregiving with regular paid work. The challenges are numerous: how can caregivers meet the demands of a typical job while also accompanying their loved-one to doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and other medical appointments? How can they balance work with caring for their loved-one during an acute episode of their illness? Missing work can have great financial, professional and personal consequences. Carers, the very people who help keep healthcare systems functioning, are disproportionately impacted by inflexible work conditions, resulting in loss of productivity and even early retirement in some cases.
FOSTERING DISCUSSION BETWEEN EMPLOYERS AND CAREGIVERS
In order to begin creating solutions to help carers balance work and caregiving, AbbVie participated in a Norwegian pilot programme to research the impact of caregiving on work productivity. The results of the research demonstrate that carers are usually dedicated employees who want to remain in their jobs. The question is, how can systems help them do so?
Bringing employers into the discussion is the first step, according to Lisa Lien, a sociologist at FAFO, a research institute in Oslo, Norway. Caregivers, who help keep patients at home and out of institutional care, should be given flexibility to juggle their personal responsibilities with work, without having to use paid leave or overtime to compensate for time spent working as a caregiver.
Though not necessarily an easy step for employee-caregivers to take, they must start the discussion. In light of the impact that caregiver workability and productivity have on the economy, policymakers have a vested interest in supporting these efforts as well.
Norway is just one country leading the charge in studying the needs of caregivers and researching innovative strategies to support them. From greater flex-time and carer stipends to additional care structures for chronically ill and elderly patients, many possibilities exist—and deserve serious consideration—to make it easier for caregivers to find the right balance.
Help Wanted ? Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care, OECD 20111, Chapter 1, P.40 and Chapter 1, P.42
Sergi Jiménez-Martin, Raquel Vegas Sanchez, Availability and Choice of Care. Assessing Needs of Care in European Nations (ANCIEN) & European Network of Economic Policy Research Institutes. 2012.
Spotlight on Prevention: When, Who and How?
Unhealthy lifestyles and lack of physical activity are key factors in the development of chronic diseases. Early prevention and diagnosis, better education, and above all collaboration among governments, patient organizations, and industry are crucial to prevent chronic diseases from arising.