1 December 2016

ING publishes annual trend report on elder care

How can we ensure that accessible and high-quality elder care will continue to be available in the future? The answer is far from straightforward. All the more reason to keep a close eye on the sector. ING and Probis will therefore publish an annual trend report on the topic. The first edition will be out in February 2017. In this article, we offer you a first glimpse of the sector.

Reform of financing

"The government must invest in elder care and that means making choices and having the courage to rearrange budgets", says Professor Pacolet, Hiva KULeuven. Although the professor insists that there is no cause for concern, the sector itself has quite a few worries. Michel Van Stallen, CEO of Dorian Group: "Everyone has to fight to obtain funding. RVT (Rest and Care Home) financing has been falling behind since 2012. The result is that institutions are working with resources that they don't actually have." Johan De Muynck, director of Zorgbedrijf Antwerpen, shares his view: "The current financing system is much too complex." A reform could lead to greater efficiency and transparency. Thus, in the handicapped persons sector, the government has opted for a "person-following" budget, i.e. one that is tailored to the individual. This means the client him- or herself can pay for the care needed. But is this possible with elder care as well?

Challenges of home care

In reality, elder care has a different dynamic than care for handicapped persons. So many senior citizens postpone the move to a live-in care centre (WZC) as long as possible. That means that home care has to be adjusted to the situation. In a residential setting, the organisation and communication between various care providers is easier, since you have them all on one site. Home care is different. "How can you get care providers to work together on a coordinated basis in home care? How do we address loneliness? Home care brings new challenges", says Patrick Vrydaghs, Business Unit Manager, Elderly Care at Corilus. Various forms of intake will be needed, such as assisted living, short stays, overnight respite care, etc. In this way, home caregivers can have relief. Home care also has an impact on the staff. When senior citizens only enter care homes at a more advanced age, their care needs are often higher. This will further increase pressure in the workplace.

Technology in combination with a human approach

New technology and digitisation also play an important role in the organisation of elder care. Technology is very important in offering varied care through several different care providers. Some 50 per cent of care homes have digitised their care dossiers and the administration of medication. The Flemish government has made a commitment by setting aside a budget for platforms such as Vitalink, eHealth, etc. This is expected to gain significant speed in the coming years. There are also ever more forms of assistance available to clients, such as systems with fall prevention or alarm buttons. This makes independent living easier.

Johan Demuynck emphasised that a warm, human approach is essential and deserves the investment of a great deal of effort. "Technology that enables patients to wash themselves faster, for example, does not necessarily mean better care. Quality time also means quantity time."

What does the future have in store?

There are significant changes under way at the moment in the elder care sector. it is therefore important for both the government and care providers to bear this in mind. In order to address the greying of the population, a diverse range of options will have to be offered. Only then can clients make an informed choice between home care, residential care or a combination of the two.

Elder care must also continue to meet high quality standards. Great efforts are being made in this direction in the workplace. It is therefore important for work pressure not to increase even further. Another, equally great, challenge is the affordability of the care, both for the individual client and for the government.

What next?