New services boost Beijing care homes

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 13, 2013
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A nurse is massaging an aging visitor inside a club for the aging people in Jinrongjie Community. [Wu Jin/]

A nurse is massaging an aging visitor inside a club for the aging people in Jinrongjie Community. [Wu Jin/]

Zhang Jingcui is an 82-year-old widowed Shandong native, who moved to Beijing under the request of her children. But despite her children's filial piety, Zhang felt increasingly lonely when she had nobody to talk to at home during the daytime when her children were out at work.

Two years ago, her son brought her to see a nursing home near their community in Ping'anli, and she was lucky to become one of the city's 2.87 million elderly people aged over 60 to be able to secure a bed in the quadrangle, which she fell in love with on her first visit.

By the end of 2012, Beijing had 400 nursing houses, which provided 76,000 beds for millions of elderly people, roughly 30 beds for every 1,000 old people. Zhang was happy that she could reside in the nursing home, which now has long waiting lists.

"I came here a few days after its establishment and at that time the rooms were not fully occupied," Zhang recalled.

The nursing home Zhang resided in was named Cun Cao Chun Hui (an abbreviation of a line from a Tang Dynasty (618-907) poem to express gratitude to loving mothers). Set up by five alumni from China's prestigious Tsinghua University, the care home is aimed at middle-and-low-income senior citizens, although its charges can be as high as 4,000 (US$ 658.8) to 5,000 yuan, about twice as much as the monthly average pension per person in the city.

However, despite homely decorations, for example each doorway is marked with two symbolic paper cuttings of the zodiac animals of its occupants, the care center represents only part of Cun Cao Chun Hui's business.

"We hope to take care of more old people in the community, and to provide home services to them. That will be the basis of our business," Wang Xiaolong, CEO of Cun Cao Chun Hui Home for the Aged said.

Renovated from a hostel in Heping Community, the 10-million-yuan nursing house only provides 100 beds, which is far less than the number of the aging residents there. As it is impossible to accommodate all the elderly, the Tsinghua graduates have found an alternative way of providing home services, including calling the doctors to diagnose patients at home, taking care of the sick and reading newspapers for the elderly. The home service charges are also much lower than the care center.

Senior residents can kill time by spending 10 yuan on calling for a nurse to read newspapers or they can spend 15 yuan on a lunch, cooked by chefs from Bianyifang, a roast duck chain restaurant in Beijing.

"I think the best option for middle-and-low-income old people is to receive services at home," said Wang.

The service, spearheaded by Cun Cao Chun Hui, also inspired the municipality, which believes cooperation between the government and the NGOs is inevitable in solving the problems emerging in the aging society.

"The government will stimulate the market and encourage the NGOs to take part in nursing the elderly. We will also train family members on how to take care of their aging parents in a bid to solve the problems inside homes," said Li Hongbin, deputy director of the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs.

In spite of the government's relentless efforts in encouraging the expansion of the nursing homes, there will only be 40 beds available for every 1,000 elderly people in 2020. Because of this, most elderly people spend their remaining days at home. Providing appropriate care for them is critical for the future of the city, in which the aging population is expected to constitute one third of the residents in 20 to 30 years time.

"We'll learn from Japan, the United States and Denmark about their criteria. But we know that our biggest problem is a lack of qualified nurses," said Li.

Beijing has about 5,000 nurses taking care of the elderly and most of them are not from the city. According to Li, the government worries that if the nurses leave, there would be huge problems.

"Therefore, we'll organize training for the nurses, and develop more technology to reduce the labor costs and to classify nurses' jobs."

Zhao Chao, general manager of Concord Life Care Services, an NGO which provides services to nursing houses, including the No. 3 Financial Sub-District Hostels for the Elderly, a 3,075-square-meter nursing home designed by the Architecture School of Tsinghua University, appreciates the dedication that his nurses have to their work.

"The salary for a nurse at entry level in our organization after tax and insurance deductions is 3,500 yuan, but they can earn 10,000 yuan if they are better trained. They can be either promoted to executive directors, managers or senior nurses."

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