Residential care homes for the elderly are beyond the means of increasing numbers of German pensioners, according to as yet unpublished figures from the Federal Statistical Office, seen by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
The figures show a five-percent increase in the number of people needing government aid to finance care in their old age in 2010, with a total annual cost to the state of €3.4 billion.
Experts see this as cause for alarm. “The risk of falling into poverty due to care needs has been growing for years,” said Ulrike Mascher, president of the VdK social law association and lobby group.
Full care for an elderly patient in a home costs €2,900 a month, just €1,500 of which is covered by nursing insurance, the paper said. To make matters worse, pensions have been stagnating for years.
The German population is aging rapidly and the number of people needing state financial aid to cover care costs is expected to double to 4.7 million by 2050, or 1 in 15 Germans, wrote the paper. By then the German government may not be able to support its citizens financially in their old age, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned earlier this year.
“In the face of this impending emergency it's appropriate at least to consider alternative forms of care,” Willi Zylajev, German MP and care specialist told the paper.
Unable to afford care homes in their own country, growing numbers of elderly Germans are choosing to move abroad to Eastern Europe, Spain or Thailand for their twilight years, where costs are kept low mainly due to lower wages for care workers.
The German care industry is currently in discussion over whether German insurance companies could cooperate with residential care homes abroad to help this option become more attractive, but direct contracts subsidizing care abroad are still forbidden under German law.
Another alternative being discussed is to bring large numbers of Asian or Eastern European care workers to work in Germany, Zylajev told the paper.