Thanks to declining mortality (and hence rising life expectancy), more and more people reach an age where declining physical and mental health causes them to become dependent on the help of others. Most of the social care needed is currently provided by relatives, spouses and children in particular, most of them women. Only few Member States provide comprehensive social protection against the risk of losing one’s ability to live autonomously.
The need for long-term care is expected to rise sharply over the coming years as a result of the growing number of older people. At the same time, the availability of informal care by family members can be expected to decline as future cohorts of older people will have had fewer children who may also live further away from their elderly parents and who may also be in employment and hence unable to provide intensive social care.
The EU promotes the cooperation among Member States in this area through the open method of coordination which focuses in particular on closing the gap between the need for long-term care and its supply by exploring in particular how the loss of autonomy can be prevented and how the capacity of older people to live independently can be preserved or restored.