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Elderly Care

Switzerland - Elderly Care

People in Switzerland have one of the longest life expectancies in the world and old people increasingly live alone rather than as part of a family unit. Not surprisingly, there are many nursing homes for the elderly, from those funded by the canton to partially-funded and completely private homes. Each canton takes care of licensing its own nursing care providers. Within each canton, the municipalities (communes) hold responsibility for ensuring that care will be provided to those who need it. Elder care can include residential homes and nursing homes, but also care in a person's own home, a mode of elder care that is increasingly encouraged. Home care is managed by the Spitex organisation throughout Switzerland and availability of their services is said to be very good. Occasionally, if there are insufficient facilities for residential care, elderly people may instead be given a hospital bed. Those with sufficient funds may of course opt for a private home of their own choosing.

Municipalities, if large enough, will either fully govern or contribute to the management of residential and nursing homes themselves rather than contract this out. Smaller municipalities often band together to co-manage elder care.

For the fees and charges of a residential or nursing home to be covered (at least partially) by health insurance, it is first necessary for a home to be included on a list drawn up by the canton. Residents are normally required to cover at least 50% of the cost and those without the required funds will receive supplementary social benefits via the Federal Social Insurance Office. It is also possible that your family will be asked to contribute. It may be possible under certain circumstances to be allocated one of the limited beds in charity-run residential or nursing homes such as those run by the Salvation Army (die Heilsarmee). A Jewish nursing home can be found in Zurich.

People with dementia will receive funds from a combination of health insurance and the state, although again will contribute to their own care from personal funds. Alzheimer charities state that current financial support and capacity of care centres is insufficient, and continue to campaign for better provision.

Palliative.ch has a directory of hospitals, hospices and clinics offering palliative care for the terminally ill. Hospices tend to be small and it is therefore advised to make enquiries with your hospice of choice as early as possible.

Controversially, assisted suicide (or euthanasia) is legal in Switzerland. There is much debate on the topic, but the majority of Swiss voters remain in favour of this right, including the right for foreigners to come to Switzerland for this purpose. This course of action involves counselling sessions, although there has been some media criticism of how quick the process can be. The most well-known provider of assisted death is Dignitas, based in suburban Zurich. Exit offers a similar service, but restricted to residents only.

Useful Resources

Spitex Verband Schweiz
Provider of home care for the elderly throughout Switzerland
Spitex Verband Schweiz, Zentralsekretariat, Sulgenauweg 38/Postfach 1074, CH 3000 Bern 23
Tel: +41 (0)31 381 22 81
Email: admin@spitex.ch

Pro Senectute
Swiss organisation for the elderly
Pro Senectute Schweiz, Geschäfts- und Fachstelle, Lavaterstr. 60, Postfach, CH 8027 Zürich
Tel: +41 (0)44 283 89 89

Swiss Alzheimer Association
Information, support and lobbying on Alzheimers issues in Switzerland
Schweizerische Alzheimervereinigung, Geschäftsstelle, Rue des Pêcheurs 8 E, CH 1400 Yverdon-les-Bains
Tel: +41 (0)24 426 20 00
Email: info@alz.ch

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