Spring June 2003
Abstract Over the past decade, policy makers in developed countries have begun to pay increasing attention to reform of the long-term care system for the frail elderly and younger people with disabilities. A continuum of strategies have generated interest, including integrated systems of care with agency/professionally managed service packages on the one end, and programs offering cash benefits along with the flexibility to decide how to best use these funds to meet individual needs and preferences, on the other. The latter approach, known as “consumer-directed care,” is found in various forms and degrees in Europe and North America. Primarily organised around the provision of home and community care, consumer-directed services are aimed at empowering clients and family carers, giving them major control over the what, who and when of needed care. Consumer-directed care appears to be the antithesis of integrated care. However, it actually holds important lessons and implications for the latter. This policy paper explores the rationale and models of consumer-directed services at home, reviews developments, designs and outcomes of programs in the Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US. It also discusses how this experience could be helpful in shaping better and more responsive integrated models of care for vulnerable long term care populations.