“300 million elderly people deprived long-term care”

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The International Labour Organization’s Xenia Scheil-Adlung, who said that many countries lack legislation on long term care. Photo: UN/Daniel Johnson

More than half the world’s elderly are not looked after properly or professionally and the issue is largely ignored by most countries, labour experts at the UN warned Monday.

With some 300 million people over 65 years old now affected, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that a worldwide shortage of well over 13 million care workers is making the problem worse.

That’s because of a lack of investment in long-term state-funded care for those who need it, according to a new ILO report, which shows that the issue affects rich and poor countries alike.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The International Labour Organization report shows that 300 million people over 65 face what it calls “extreme deficits” in long-term care.

What that means is, there’s no-one to provide professional, publicly funded care to more than half of the world’s elderly.

This includes everything from round-the-clock monitoring for Alzheimer’s patients, to physiotherapy sessions for people recovering from an operation.

At the launch of the ILO report in Geneva, author Xenia Scheil-Adlung says that in many countries, caring for elderly relatives is still done by the women of the household.

But it’s a system that’s full of pitfalls, she says:

“These family members cannot provide professional care, secondly they are losing their own career, they are losing out on income, they are not having any social protection in case they are sick, they don’t get anything…”

The ILO report also shows a huge shortage of state-funded carers – some 13.6 million professionals in all.

These workers are almost completely absent in all African countries, and they’re also largely absent in South America.

But even richer countries have what ILO calls “completely insufficient” access to long-term care.

In France, the problem affects 70 per cent of the elderly, while in Portugal the figure rises to 90 per cent.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

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