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Integrated elderly care network is key to future

By Jiang Chunli | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-12 08:54

An aging population is a challenge for China. At the end of 2018, the number of those age 60 and above was 249.49 million, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total population, while the number of those age 65 and above was 166.58 million, representing 11.9 percent of the total population.

According to the China National Committee on Aging, by 2030, the number of people age 60 and above in China will reach 370 million, accounting for 25.3 percent of the total population. By 2053, the number of people 60 and above will touch 487 million, accounting for 34.9 percent of the total population.

Due to the country's family planning policies, a majority of Chinese families have faced a situation in which two breadwinners have had to care for four elderly people while raising one child, which weakens the family's ability to care for the elderly.

At the same time, China's eldercare industry lacks institutional support, and there is a gap between urban and rural areas.

The long-term care insurance system is still in the pilot stage, and the development of the eldercare industry is hindered by a lack of institutional support and funds.

A large number of young laborers from the countryside have moved to the cities, leaving elderly people unattended in rural areas. This results in an increase in the aging population in rural areas compared with urban areas.

Therefore, it is extremely important to build a medical care system to respond to the problem.

In the next 10 years, we need to speed up the building of an elderly care and medical service system and enact suitable laws and regulations.

First, we should strengthen the convergence of eldercare and medical service policies, for which we need to explore the establishment of an integrated medical care system. An eldercare and medical service system can meet diverse needs of the elderly population and integrate resources such as families, communities, hospitals and elderly care institutions.

We should expand medical care services for the elderly. Eldercare institutions should have small clinics to provide health management and basic medical care services for the elderly and to treat chronic diseases.

An elderly care and medical service platform should be established in rural areas. Rural elderly care and medical service centers should be linked with urban hospitals and professional elderly care institutions so that personnel in rural areas can learn more about eldercare skills.

A new institution should be created to unify the elderly care and medical service system. Drawing on international experience, China should set up a department that can integrate the management of elderly care services, break down institutional barriers for policy implementation and resolve coordination issues at the institutional level.

Second, we should accelerate the setting up of the elderly care and medical service system, and the establishment of a long-term care insurance system with experience gained from pilot areas.

For the long-term care insurance sector, we need a policy framework that suits China's national conditions. And we need an implementation road map to gradually improve the system.

At the same time, we need to strengthen the long-term care service system and promote the synergistic development of a financial support system and service provision system.

One way to do this is to encourage insurance companies to develop differentiated care services by alleviating companies' financial burden and exploring the creation of a sustainable financial subsidy mechanism.

Separately, we need to establish a professional mechanism to evaluate the disability level of the elderly and provide care services accordingly.

The disability index system can be used as a standard to comprehensively assess the disability status of the elderly. Professional staff can provide door-to-door assessment services for the elderly.

Efforts can be made to establish a cooperation mechanism for third-party institutions engaged in disability assessment.

Among the other things that can be done are to devise plans to offer hierarchical training and set up an occupational access system for medical care personnel. European countries, the United States and Japan already have established professional systems for the caring industry's personnel. We can learn from their experience and adopt hierarchical talent training and use the policy to ensure that personnel in the elderly care service industry have career advancement channels, receive appropriate compensation and enjoy social acceptance.

In addition, stabilization of the elderly care and medical service system should be improved through legislation.

So far, over 140 countries and regions around the world have set up provisions safeguarding the legal rights of the elderly.

At present, China's medical care and services do not have a complete industry standard or legal norms for elderly care. So it is imperative to adjust and supplement provisions during the process of integrating elderly care and medical service resources.

The author is director of the Information Department of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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