Advanced Age and Autonomy: France in Urgent Need for Adapting Society

After consulting various social services for the past 5 months, the report “Advanced Age and Autonomy” was submitted to the French Health Minister, Agnès Buzyn, by the President of the High Council in charge of allocating funding for this sector, Dominique Libault, on March 28.

Today in France there are 1.5 million people aged over 85. By 2050, this age group will triple to 4.8 million. Consequently the percentage of dependent persons could increase by 50%. In the report’s preface Mr. Libault laments: “Time is of the essence. The entire report focuses on switching from caring for someone who is dependent, to implementing support systems to help the person remain autonomous.  (…) Our society must include the elderly, and not isolate them, in their own homes or in institutions. We need to have a new outlook on how to treat advanced age”.

Since by 2030 there will be an additional 40,000 French seniors who will be dependent, the newly published report gives 175 measures. Ten of these are classified as priorities, aimed at meeting the 3 following objectives:

  • promote home care (the solution preferred by most French people),
  • improve residential care in nursing homes (French “EPHADs”) for the elderly, dependent individuals.
  • address the personnel shortage for elderly care.

To enable dependent persons to remain at home, “their caregivers who are still in the work force, could be compensated for a leave of absence” for approximately 50 €/day, similar to that already allotted for parental presence and care of infants who are sick or handicapped.

Over the past 2 years, under-staffing in French nursing homes has been widely commented. Based on the 2015 statistics, the report recommends increasing the ratio of staff per elderly resident by 25% by 2024.

A national awareness campaign will be launched to attract candidates and address the shortage of caregivers in both individual homes and nursing facilities.

The caregivers who were consulted for the national report are disappointed; they believe that local efforts for solidarity should be more developed and receive more support.

The changes that can be done without legislative impact could be rapidly implemented, before summer. The French Health Minister, Mrs. Buzyn, announced that she intends to table a bill in the fall.

Advanced aging is an essential issue, not only for France, but throughout Europe. Alliance VITA underlines it as a major challenge for the candidates in the upcoming European elections, in order to build a coalition where the rights of the most vulnerable could be taken into account.

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