Germany outsources elder care – Le Monde diplomatique – English edition
It costs too much to take care of the western world’s old and frail in their own homes or care homes. German is beginning to export the work to low-wage service economies.
by Heike Haarhoff
Mrs T, who is 87 and a widow, lives in a big house in Berlin that her husband built for the children they intended to have but never did. Her only family is a niece who lives 700km away and a distant relative in the US. Her voice is hoarse because she doesn’t get to talk often, she is unsteady on her feet and she can’t remember the way to the doctor’s surgery: he has diagnosed her with progressive senile dementia.
Mrs T is sure of one thing: she will not move to a retirement home, a view shared with two thirds of Germans, if opinion polls are correct. Their views have been confirmed by media reports of staff hastily fitting gastric tubes to residents because there were no carers to feed them, and not changing incontinence pads for hours. The Federal Association of Private Social Service Providers (BPA) estimates a current shortfall of 30,000 nurses, perhaps 220,000 by 2020. Not enough qualified staff, difficult working conditions (staff are overstretched in upmarket retirement homes too), and a worse shortage in the home care sector.