If you are in need of medical care but don’t have to stay in a hospital, you can apply for a wide range of home care services. More than half a million people in the Netherlands live in nursing homes, or use home care (thuiszorg) or maternity care (kraamzorg).
Home care for the elderly and disabled
The government’s policy in recent years has been to help as many elderly people as possible to live in their own homes, as this is cheaper than placing them in nursing or care homes. If you live at home and are elderly or disabled, you get assistance from home care organisations. In order to arrange this, the first step is to visit your GP (huisarts) to discuss your needs. To apply, you can ask your doctor or have a look at zorgkaartnederland.nl/thuiszorg (in Dutch).
Next, an assessment is made of the needs you may have, as well as how family, friends and neighbours can assist. As a result, most home care consists of a mixed program of nursing from professional care providers and help around the house from informal carers. Professional carers will be able to help with simple medical tasks, such as changing wound dressings, handing out medication or taking blood pressure readings. They can also provide assistance with a wide variety of day-to-day activities, such as getting in and out of bed, dressing and undressing, going outside, eating and drinking, using the toilet and personal hygiene. Those depending on home care can also receive shopping assistance and dietary advice. If necessary, other care providers will visit you at home, such as physiotherapists, mental health professionals et cetera. As the main providers of care, district nurses (wijkzuster) are the first point of contact and liaison with the municipality to coordinate a client’s needs. They also stay in touch with family and friends and other informal caregivers.
It is also possible to receive home care for a short period of time, for example if you’ve just been discharged from hospital after surgery and are not yet able to fully take care of yourself. This is usually arranged by the hospital.
By law (the Zorgverzekeringswet) healthcare insurers are responsible for care at home, until someone is admitted to hospital. Home care may be covered by your insurance and/or supplemented by your municipality. You may also have to pay some expenses out of pocket, but these may be reimbursed if they are covered by your additional insurance package (aanvullende verzekering).
When you are pregnant, you will be asked if you want to deliver your baby in a hospital or at home. The Netherlands boasts the highest number of home deliveries in the world (however, it has dropped from 23 to 13% in the last ten years); giving birth here is considered a natural process, that should be done with as little outside intervention (including medication) as possible.
After giving birth, the mother will receive professional help at home (kraamzorg) for at least one week. A nurse looks after the mother and infant, helps around the house if needed, gives guidance on breastfeeding and looks after other family members, especially other children. If you are new to the country, this kind of support is highly valuable! Note that you have to arrange kraamzorg with a specific organization fairly early in your pregnancy. It is covered by your insurance, apart from a small contribution that you will have to pay yourself.
When registering with your GP, you will also be required to register with a pharmacy. Any prescriptions issued by your GP will be communicated directly to your pharmacy, which will check for possible problems (e.g. medications that cannot be taken together). Depending on your insurance package, the bill may be sent automatically to your insurer; otherwise, you will have to pay first and then make a claim with your insurance. For those receiving home care, it is possible to have medication delivered to your home free of charge. Another possibility is to pick up medication after pharmacy hours from secured pick-up boxes.