Upgrading the nursing profession?

Upgrading the nursing profession?

Care as an election campaign ie © Arno Burgi

The topic of care is not sexy. No one likes to think about it. But shortly before the federal election, it has become a major campaign ie. Merkel and Schulz have taken a stand.

Nursing concerns every German citizen. The topic is often suppressed, but in an aging society, sooner or later almost everyone will be confronted with the question of how to care for themselves or family members in the event of illness or in the last phase of life.

In the TV debates of recent days, both Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her challenger Martin Schulz (SPD) have taken a clear position: Nursing professions must be better paid and upgraded, Merkel told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper. And Schulz promised to make better care for the elderly a central state task in the next legislative period.

Threat of shortage of skilled workers

All experts agree that there is a serious shortage of skilled workers in nursing care, especially in the significantly lower-paid elderly care sector. At the same time, the number of people in need of care continues to rise: in 2015, just under 2.9 million people required care; by 2060, the figure is expected to reach 4.7 million. Hospitals are also already seeing more elderly patients suffering from multiple illnesses at the same time.

Employers and interest groups of the caring urgently demand measures to make the nursing professions more attractive. Many care workers complain about low pay, difficult working conditions, health problems and the poor image of their profession. All reforms of long-term care insurance are of no use if there are no staff, argues the German Nursing Council.

Most recently, the grand coalition has set some new course. "We have strengthened the payment of collectively agreed wages in nursing care, supported nursing care facilities in reducing bureaucracy and abolished school fees in nursing care for the elderly," sums up Federal Health Minister Hermann Grohe (CDU). Something is also happening in terms of lower staffing limits: Politicians have set deadlines by which staffing ratios must be defined and introduced in nursing homes and hospitals.

Preventing the need for care

The Center for Quality in Care has also identified improved prevention and rehabilitation as a key ie in the coming years, with the aim of preventing the need for care as far as possible. The so-called care TuV is also to be reformed as quickly as possible: Consumers should then be able to obtain better information about suitable homes and care services. The school grades published so far have proven to be of little value.

The relationship between outpatient and inpatient care in particular promises to be a major ie in the coming legislative period. Outpatient care has benefited more from recent reforms, which is also in line with the desire of most citizens to be able to live in their own homes for as long as possible. However, this also causes problems: After all, there are fewer and fewer relatives who can provide care at home – either because of work or because they live far away. For homes, the trend toward outpatient care could mean that the proportion of residents requiring the most severe care will continue to increase – an increasing burden on caregivers.

Care mix

Care experts and the parties are therefore in favor of a new mix of family, voluntary and professional care: It is about more residential groups and more outpatient care services such as day care. Living in one's own home could also be combined more with services from professional providers and voluntary help in districts and villages. The SPD wants to create a demographic future fund for such projects.

Digitalization could be the driver of this development: The Internet, expanded home emergency calls and health apps could improve communication between those in need of care, doctors, relatives and caregivers.

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