Photo from the Vlaamse Ouderenraad
Over the past two years, Flanders (Northern Belgian region) has been working hard on a new Flemish home care decree in order to improve the delivery of care at home and in care centres. The decree determines new regulations that home care facilities and services must comply with.
The Vlaamse Ouderenraad (Flemish Council for Older Persons) was given a say in the drafting process of the decree, which provided a unique opportunity to translate older people’s concerns and needs into concrete policy. And with results: through discussions in preparatory working groups and various recommendations, the seniors’ organisation successfully proposed a number of amendments to improve the quality of life and participation of people with care needs.
Here are some of the most important ones:
> Renewed role for local service centres that will become the bridge between local authorities, local residents, associations and welfare and care organisations to best meet residents’ needs and wishes.
> Mandatory recognition for assisted living
Only the care residence that meet specific requirements will be allowed to use the name ‘assistance residence’. In this way, the resident will know exactly what he is entitled to, such as a residential assistant, an emergency call system for crisis and bridging care, a shared, collective area and a wheelchair accessible environment. The decree will include the guarantee that a response will be given to emergency calls and that nothing extra may be invoiced just to come and have a look at an emergency call.
> Quality of life, housing and care are central
Older people with care needs will have more say in their personal support and care. On a regular basis, together with the older person and his family, consultation should take place about the resident’s living preference and care needs. The outcome will be collected in a ‘residential care and living plan’ that will be regularly updated. This plan goes much further than just medical care, addressing also expectations concerning the resident’s autonomy, social relationships, decent living environment, meaningful daytime activities, etc.
> Reinforcement of user councils
The user councils in residential care homes and assistance homes will be strengthened. In addition to the user council, a compulsory family council must also meet regularly. In addition, at the request of a resident or family member, someone from a voluntary care association or the local council for older people can participate in the council of users to bring some assistance. Furthermore, the internal regulations may only be amended after consultation with the council of users and the family council. This gives them a fully-fledged voice in the organisation of daily life in the residential care centre.
> An effective complaints policy
Residents and family members who make a complaint will have the right to an answer within a certain period of time. And the residential care centre will have to prove that it is taking measures in order to solve or prevent the problem.
> And much more…
On many specific points, rules have been adapted to meet the Vlaamse Ouderenraad’s demands for improving the quality of life, housing and care. For example, a great deal of attention is paid to rules on guaranteeing the greatest possible freedom. Step by step, new forms of support, such as various forms of short stay and a more suitable offer for people with mild dementia, are being introduced. Palliative care, early care planning and end-of-life care were also given extra attention. Finally, citizens will also be able to find inspection reports online in the future.
AGE’s Flemish member organisation welcomes the decree, which will come into force in 2020, as an important step in the right direction. Yet, there is still significant room for improvement. Firstly, because a real redesign of the care landscape was unfortunately not possible in that short period of time. Secondly, because a number of important issues have not yet been addressed: the funding and the minimum standards for staff must be increased, and the distribution of supply also needs to be improved, so that there are no longer regions with long waiting lists or over-supply. Affordability must also be addressed as a matter of urgency.
These are all requirements that the Vlaamse Ouderenraad will certainly present to the new Flemish government.
For further information, you can read the full article (in Dutch) on the Vlaamse Ouderenraad’s website