Australia and NZ have already implemented much of the proposed ideas that Japan is about to try.
The revised Nursing Care Insurance Law, a key pillar of which is the introduction of 24-hour home-visit service, was enacted Wednesday after it was approved by an overwhelming majority vote in a plenary session of the House of Councillors.
The revised law, upheld by the ruling and opposition parties, will make it possible for elderly people to receive nursing care service at home while continuing to live in their communities even if they are forced to live alone or their health deteriorates to the point they require sophisticated treatment.
The law will take effect next April, except for some sections.
Under the new around-the-clock service, caretakers and nurses will cooperate in providing service by visiting patients regularly for short periods. They will also be on standby so they can rush to patients' homes if required.
The revised law makes it possible to liquidate fiscal stability funds of prefectural governments to lessen the burden for insurance premium payments. The national average monthly premium stands at 4,160 yen for people aged 65 or older.
According to calculations by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the premium is likely to rise to 5,000 yen per month from fiscal 2012 even with the revisions.
Under the revised law, municipal governments will be able, on their own initiative, to establish a system to provide comprehensive life-support service for the elderly who require lower-level nursing care. Such service includes dispatching caretakers for preventive care and meal delivery.
In a relevant law, it was made possible for welfare workers and care staff who complete training to conduct some medical treatments such as airway suction.
The number of senior citizens who live alone has been increasing, making it necessary to introduce the 24-hour home-visit nursing care service, a welfare ministry official said.
Under the current system, home-visit service is limited to an average of 1.1 visits per day and there is not sufficient cooperation between caretakers and nurses.
Senior citizens who require frequent care often feel uneasy about living alone and apply to enter nursing care facilities. As a result, about 420,000 elderly people are on waiting lists for intensive-care nursing homes.
But this problem cannot be dealt with by simply increasing the number of such facilities. Therefore, the introduction of around-the-clock home-visits could be the first big step forward in resolving this, observers said.
However, Jason Falinski, the managing director of CareWell Health, says that this program has not worked in Australia. "Community care is not necessarily the answer, and in fact comes with a whole host of other challenges that no one appears to be willing to deal with."
But the participation of good quality nursing companies is needed for the spread of the new service.