Caregivers in Italy are still struggling to gain legislative recognition, yet in other European countries, caregivers have become an essential part of the welfare system, which demonstrates that Italy can achieve this same objective.
Assessing the needs of caregivers
There are 100 million caregivers in Europe (2/3 women), which, in economic terms, is equivalent to 50-90% of the total costs of formal long-term care in the EU.
80% of caregiving activities provided in the EU for non-self-sufficient people are provided by relatives and friends. This number indicates that even in countries with a developed system of healthcare services, there are on average twice as many caregivers as healthcare workers. Every country has had to face the problem of identifying a family caregiver. In other words, what are the parameters for officially considering a person a caregiver? Every country has a different solution. Some have created systems that give caregivers a place within the social welfare and healthcare system while others have general practitoners identify the person in need of care and who, thus, needs a caregiver.
Different countries, different solutions
England, Malta and Sweden have created systems that assess a caregiver’s needs.
In England, the Carers Recognition and Service Act was already established in 1995, which recognized a caregiver’s right to have their own personal needs as a caregiver assessed, followed by the Carers and Disabled Children Act in 2000, which acknowledged individual rights and support for caregivers. In particular, the government established the following priorities:
– To involve the caregiver directly from the very beginning in developing individualized care plans.
– To make it easier to formally recognize the role of the caregiver and at an earlier stage.
– To offer support to caregivers so that they may maintain their own physical and mental well-being.
– To help caregivers reach their full educational and employment potential.
Each of these points has something in common- prevention. Molding skilled caregivers has a beneficial impact on both society and the entire healthcare system. England, however, is not the only positive example.
In France, the number of people who interrupt their own professional careers in order to become caregivers for at least 30 months can obtain full retirement benefits at 65 and caregiving activities are treated as employment for contributory purposes. Sweden offers caregivers support from a psychological point of view through a series of projects that involve public and private institutions and family communities. In addition to psychological support, caregivers are also offered training, consultation, counselling services and the possibility of being replaced for a few days to lighten the workload.
Anche Spagna, Romania, Grecia e Polonia possono contare su specifiche tutele per chi assiste i familiari, mentre in Danimarca esiste un sistema di assistenza continuativa a lungo termine finanziato dallo Stato e dunque il ricorso ai caregiver familiari è moderato (nonostante un forte sostegno agli stessi). Esistono anche casi più estremi come l’Estonia, dove la costituzione sancisce un vero e proprio dovere dei figli di prendersi cura dei genitori non più autosufficienti.
There are clearly an infinite number of examples or models to follow, but we need to figure out which one is best suited to the needs of Italy. This is a historic moment and the national healthcare system will be subjected to drastic reforms in order to survive. Hopefully even the difficult position of caregivers can benefit from the changes that will take place.
© Domedica s.r.l.