Long-term care is a phenomenon that can be described as a response to demographic changes faced by all countries in the world. The rapid aging of the population and the simultaneous decrease in the percentage of the young population in modern industrial societies, have radically affected the systems that until recently have been relatively stable. Higher life expectancy, the advance of medicine, the decrease in the share of an active population and the increasing number of assistance-dependent persons, have caused changes in family and intergenerational relations. The ratio between people assisting and receiving care has radically changed. Consequently, the risk of the failure to provide adequate care and support has increased, while at the same time the burden shouldered by those who provide care has become heavier. Another reason for the launching of long-term care debate is the process of deinstitutionalisation – the closure of large institutions and the restructuring of care towards alternative forms of community services. The paradigm of care has also changed; the emphasis is now on the person and his or her needs, and assistance is considered to be effective if it responds to a person’s needs in accordance with his or her expectations. In a new area of integrated long-term care that enables various disciplines to form common strategies for help and solidarity, social work has to define its role.
At the September session we will focus on specific questions related to social work, i.e. the relationship between formal and informal help; development of the new information and telecommunication technologies based on the needs of older people; how to include older people as the users of long-term care in the new system of care; how to include older people in research and projects which attempt to identify new ways of care provision; what are the cultural contexts of long-term care, etc.