• Industry: Healthcare
  • Type: Survey report
  • Date: 5/21/2013

Invest in the formal and informal workforce 

Invest in the workforce
This may be unsustainable, as over time emerging countries will improve their own infrastructures and raise salaries, reducing the availability of immigrant staff.
“[For parental leave] you can be out of the labor market for three years and still have the right to return to the same employer. Yet, we don’t have such a benevolent system for employees to take leave from their jobs to take care of elderly parents.”

Juhani Lehto, Professor of Social and Health Policy, University of Tampere, Finland

Regardless of where staff come from, all providers are seeking greater productivity, empathy and discretion, which requires considerable investment in support and training, to improve skills and emotional wellbeing. Better trained staff are also less likely to use sedation and restraint.

People working in the long term care sector need more structured career paths, as staff tend to leave due to lack of opportunities. Similarly, to increase the pool of workers, governments might consider funding training for under-utilized groups such as retirees or neighborhood volunteers.

This could include national domestic service programs, or partnering with academic institutions to establish vocational programs for students, combining academic research with care giving. As mentioned earlier, staff will have to improve their medical skills to cope with patients with multiple morbidity and/or those requiring several medications. There is also a lack of doctors specializing in older people’s medicine, so investment is needed to train more clinicians

“We have to produce more primary care physicians and we have to teach them the basics of geriatric care. We have to develop ‘extenders’; people who can extend the care team and take on some of the responsibilities that geriatricians and primary care doctors are burdened with now. These extenders might include community health workers or members of the care receiver’s family.”

Eric Dishman, Intel Fellow and General Manager of Health Strategy and Solutions, Intel Corporation, US

Support informal carers

Many people who would otherwise need institutional care or costly specialist homecare are looked after by members of their family, some of whom are themselves old. It is not uncommon for people to enter long term care institutions due to the death or illness of their carer. Given the huge role informal carers play in long term care, the right support can save money and improve outcomes.

Some countries, like Germany, are paying carers for their time, which could also encourage more family members and friends to help, thus reducing the strain on the health and social services systems. However, by building up expectations of financial rewards, there is a danger that informal carers will no longer work for free in any circumstances, which could ultimately reduce the amount of caring and increase the cost.

No health and social care system has the funds to pay every informal caregiver and society would arguably be poorer if this were to happen. There are however other, more effective, ways of supporting caregivers.


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