Devise Ways to Ease Burden on Family Members

Not a few people are having a hard time caring for family members. The nation has reached the stage where comprehensive measures are needed to support both those who need nursing care and their families.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has compiled a draft of new basic guidelines for nursing care insurance programs from fiscal 2024 to fiscal 2026. The guidelines will be officially approved at the end of the year.

In 2025, all the baby boomers born after World War II will have reached 75 or older. As the number of people requiring nursing care increases, it is vital to create an environment in which the elderly can live with peace of mind.

The draft guidelines are characterized by a clear policy to strengthen support, not only for the elderly who receive nursing care, but also for the families who are responsible for their care. The draft takes into account families with a person with dementia and young carers, or young people who take care of their parents, grandparents and other family members on a daily basis.

For family members who are responsible for the nursing care of a loved one, care activities tend to be detrimental to their work and studies. In some cases, they are mentally driven into a corner and end up abusing those in need of care.

Municipalities that operate nursing care insurance programs bear a heavy responsibility. They must strengthen the system of “local comprehensive support centers,” which offer nursing care consultation services, and help those in need of support receive appropriate services.

Among other things, an increasingly serious problem is elderly people taking care of other elderly people.

According to a basic survey on people’s lives by the welfare ministry, the percentage of care recipients and caregivers who were both 65 or older was 63.5% in 2022, exceeding 60% for the first time. The percentage of those who were both 75 or older rose to 35.7%.

The reality of households with elderly caregivers and care recipients is harsh, as even housework becomes more difficult. In some cases, caregivers become ill or develop dementia, causing both the caregiver and care recipient to fall into poor health. It is essential for local governments to identify families in need of support at an early stage and encourage the use of nursing care services.

The draft guidelines also emphasize the need to promote better working conditions, human resources development and the acceptance of foreign workers in order to secure nursing care personnel.

In the nursing care industry, an increasing number of businesses are becoming unviable mainly due to labor shortages. According to Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd., a private credit research company, a record number of bankruptcies, suspensions and dissolutions of nursing care businesses occurred in 2022, totaling 638.

To secure nursing care personnel, there is a need to shore up the economy as a whole and improve working conditions for nursing care workers. Financial support will also be necessary to stabilize the management of nursing care providers.

Although the nursing care insurance system has taken root since its establishment more than 20 years ago, challenges associated with a rapidly aging population have exceeded the scope of what can be addressed by the insurance system alone. The country as a whole should deepen discussions on what nursing care should be like.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2023)