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China's care system in need of reform and support

Reporter: Hu Chao 丨 CCTV.com

04-10-2014 13:17 BJT

China’s growing population of senior citizens is creating challenges for the healthcare system. One area in need is Alzheimer’s care. According to the China Elder Health Care Association, nationwide some 10 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s. But too few of them have access to specialized care. CCTV's reporter Hu Chao visited a nursing home in Taiyuan, the capital of north China’s Shanxi Province. What she found there was a snapshot for much of the country.

Li Lizhu is the director of the Taiyuan Red Cross Nursing Home. She has been working here since the facility opened in 2000. Many of the residents no longer recognize their own children. But they always have a smile for Director Li.

To date, this home has taken care of about 1000 senior citizens. Many of these people will spend their last days here.

But it’s not cheap, and families are feeling the strain.

The average cost of basic care is close to 2000 yuan per month; that’s just over 300 U.S. dollars.

In addition, depending on the treatment each patient needs, the cost may be much higher.

The nursing home is part of the Shanxi provincial mental health system. It provides care services, and medical services.

Because of this, two departments supervise its work: the local civil affairs bureau and the local health department.

This creates a problem for the administrators.

"Effective cooperation between different departments is a real problem, especially as we have to answer to two different departments. It would be a lot more efficient if a single office supervised our work." Li said.

But administrative issues are only one problem the nursing home is facing. Experts criticize the shortage of professional care givers in China. They want schools to do more to train nurses who specialize in elderly care.

"We now need about 10 million professional care workers. But to date, China only has 200 thousand care workers with even basic training. Schools should do more to prepare students in this field. They should be able to major in nursing for the elderly." Professor Tan Kejian with Shanxi Academy Of Social Sciences said.

Another problem is insurance. Coverage for Alzheimer’s care is limited. Experts suggest China needs a nationwide system that effectively reimburses elderly care. They also want the government to provide subsidies where needed.

Alzheimer’s care is a problem that experts believe the government must address. They say the country needs more nursing homes, more care givers, effective insurance, and subsidies for low income families. Meanwhile, nursing homes will continue to do their best, with limited resources.

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