Long-term care brings together a range of medical and social services for persons who are dependent on help with basic activities of daily living, caused by chronic conditions of physical or mental disability. This care and support is often carried out, at least partly, by informal carers such as relatives or friends. Long-term care operate at the boundaries between health care and social care, and is usually provided to persons with physical or mental handicaps, the frail elderly and particular groups that need support in conducting their daily life activities. Different divisions of responsibilities (private / family - public), different organisation of health care and social care, as well as differences in defining boundaries between the medical and the social care result in great variations of long-term care services, their organisation and their role within the social protection systems of the Member States.
In the European Union, Member States are responsible for the planning, funding and administration of health care and social protection systems. All national care systems are now faced with new challenges, in particular from demographic ageing and patients being more demanding. To face this, the Union is proposing concerted modernisation efforts. In supporting Member States in their reform efforts, the Union recommends three long-term objectives for national care systems, which should be pursued in parallel:
• Ensure good access to health care and social services
• Improve the quality of care
• Ensure the sustainability of the financing
In order to achieve these objectives it is essential that all the stakeholders work together to build strong partnerships. Exchanges of best practice and experience help to spread knowledge of the policies introduced, supporting mutual learning and encouraging progress.