Long-term care in Costa Rica: Lessons for Latin America based on international evidence

Chaverri-Carvajal y Matus-López

The growing prevalence of functional dependency as a result of accelerated aging and epidemiological transformation has created a pressing need to implement new systems to address the problem of long-term care (LTC) in the Region of the Americas. In March 2021, Costa Rica became the only middle-income country in the Region that has taken steps to introduce a national LTC system. The present article compares the design of this new LTC system with existing systems in Australia, Denmark, Japan, Spain, the United States of America, and Uruguay, and identifies useful lessons for the development of LTC systems in other countries of the Region. Four aspects are analyzed: the legal framework, access and coverage, types of services, and costs and financing. A search of the scientific literature and national and international reports was conducted between 1 January 2000 and 1 April 2021. The results showed that the incipient Costa Rican model follows the main trends that are seen internationally. It is progressively universal, prioritizes home care, incorporates technology tools, creates parameters for measuring the quality of services, provides monetary transfers for family members who serve as caregivers, includes respite services, and offers training for caregivers. At the same time, however, the international evidence shows that models with poor levels of funding have low coverage and offer little diversity in terms of the services provided. Insufficient funding, absence of new economic resources, and weak legal foundations are jeopardizing the expansion, development, and sustainability of the new model in the Americas.

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