Religious, Business and Social-Sector Leaders Set Forth a Call to Action for Reimagining Care in the 21st Century
“New Models of Care” Consensus Statement Issued as Guidance for Pope Francis’s U.S. Trip
NEW YORK (17 September 2015) – In anticipation of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States next week, the leaders of the “New Models of Care for an Aging Society” symposium issued a consensus statement recognizing the moral and ethical obligations of religious institutions, government, business and society as a whole to reframe and restructure existing care models for the global aging population. Convening organizations include the Global Coalition on Aging, Pontificia Università della Santa Croce, Instituto Bruno Leoni, and Markets Culture and Ethics Research Centre.
As life expectancy continues to increase across the world, with a projected 192 million people over 80 by 2030, the demand for care for older adults is sharply on the rise. The “New Models of Care” consensus statement asserts that existing models of care alone are neither sufficient nor sustainable to meet the future and changing care needs of older people. It calls for new and innovative approaches to care built on choice and preserving independence, recognizing that care should be provided with the utmost attention to dignity and respect of older people and their families.
The symposium, held in December 2014 in Rome, convened a diverse group of global cross-sector leaders to facilitate a dialogue and generate key insights and innovations around improving care. It included participation from leading and influential organizations such as the Italian Ministry of Health, Alzheimer’s Disease International, AARP and Home Instead Senior Care.
“Communities, governments and businesses across the globe are beginning to realize the high demand for eldercare and the increasing struggle to provide aging adults with the best quality care,” said Michael Hodin, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Coalition on Aging. “When we protect our elderly by providing the highest-quality care to them and do what is right by our aging population, we can simultaneously make strides toward job growth and economic prosperity.”
As Pope Francis travels to the United States next week spreading his message about caring for the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, and to attend the World Meeting of Families, the Global Coalition on Aging and its partners encourage attention to the care needs of seniors around the world through their “New Models of Care” consensus statement:
“As a global society, we have a moral and ethical obligation to protect and ensure the dignity of the most vulnerable populations, and that requires a reframing and restructuring of existing care models. Accordingly, we call on governments, opinion leaders across sectors of society, experts in care, global institutions and corporations to understand the growing care needs based on the demands of aging populations. We commit to the following principles in an effort to meet those needs:
Seniors Should Have a Choice of Care Location and Care Provider
Individuals should have freedom of choice as to how and where they receive care. As most seniors prefer to live at home as they age, the best care models will be the ones that keep seniors in their preferred environment, stimulated mentally and physically, and comfortable. Traditional care models resign seniors to care facilities, but as seniors strive to – and are able to – stay independent for longer, they should have options for where they live and receive their care.
Seniors Deserve Dignity and Respect
Care for seniors must be about much more than accomplishing tasks; it should be personal and personalized, based on validated instruments that assess the needs and wants of older individuals. By identifying these needs, caregivers and society at large can better and more compassionately respond and keep seniors engaged and safe from neglect. As society has accepted the ethical responsibility to care for the young, the sick and disabled, we too must commit to care for our old.
21st-Century Care Models Should Meet 21st-Century Quality Expectations
Care services should be delivered responsibly, with the highest ethical standards, personal regard for seniors and their families, and utmost attention to health, home and personal care. Therefore, whether care is provided by government services, charitable organizations or the private sector, we must expect of ourselves and others that caregivers are well trained and compassionate.
Caregivers Play a Critical Role in Health and Prevention
Caregivers are the lynchpin for restoring and maintaining the health of seniors. Special attention must be paid to the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that afflict us as we age, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As important is a focus on the conditions of aging, which will affect each of us as we age. Deterioration of the skin, loss of vision, hearing, bone and muscle mass affect quality of life, have an impact on falls, and can lead to other age-related health risks. Providing care that anticipates and provides for these conditions will keep seniors healthier and can reduce system-wide health care costs.
Technology Can Enable Efficiency of Care
Technology has a critical role to play in monitoring the health of seniors and keeping seniors connected in society. We recognize that technology cannot replace the human touch when it comes to personalized care, but it can make the care process more efficient and coordinated. The right balance between the two is essential to ensure 21st-century care needs are met with 21st-century care solutions.
Care Should Maintain the Family Structure
Family dynamics are changing in light of the fact that globally there will soon be more “old” than “young.” The demands on family caregivers are increasing as they balance employment and caregiving responsibilities and often neglect their own health. By supplementing family caregiving with high-quality, reliable and compassionate models of care, the physical and emotional burdens on families can be alleviated and the family structure restored.
Caregiving Can Be a Path to Economic Growth and Job Creation
Caregiving as a profession presents opportunities for new jobs, productivity and economic growth. With a shortage of family caregivers as a result of more old than young, which is global and growing, we need to view caregiving as an opportunity to meet the following societal and economic goals:
To keep family caregivers healthier and therefore more productive in the workforce and in society;
To engage older people so they may stay as active as possible – physically, mentally, socially – for as long as possible;
To provide jobs for individuals with the skills and compassion to provide care for elders;
To provide training and skills for individuals entering one of the many professions within the care field;
To define a growing and transformative profession that will be relevant and essential for generations to come."