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Home care focus sparks dramatic cut in elderly home facilities

Published tisdag 19 januari 2016 kl 20.00
More emphasis on care at home means fewer rooms at facilities for the elderly. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT.
More emphasis on care at home means fewer rooms at facilities for the elderly. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT.

Even though the elderly population is increasing, the number of accommodations at elderly homes has shrunk dramatically since 2000. According to a report by Swedish Television News, there are 32,000 fewer spots now than there were before – a reduction of a quarter.

According to the "stay home" principle, people should be cared for at home as long as possible, so that they can avoid living in institutions, and because of this, municipalities have shuttered many elderly care facilities and focused instead on home-based care. But there are people who are being denied placements at elderly homes, and Swedish Television reports that what municipalities offer, and to whom, varies widely throughout the country.

When Wiwi Hegglad's mother, 94, was denied housing at a facility for the elderly, Hegglad, from Norrköping, appealed the decision to the administrative court. When the court sided with her, she celebrated – until the municipality told her they planned to appeal.

"I don't have words to describe how I feel, because I didn't think you could do that," said Heggblad. "I don't have any conception of how someone could treat people in that way."

Elderly care today costs SEK 100 billion per year, and that cost is expected to double by 2045, when the elderly population in Sweden is predicted to reach one million. SVT's report found that 9,400 old people need so much home care that their municipalities describe them as extreme cases. They receive more than 120 hours of home care per month, whereas comprehensive home care is seen as anything over 50 hours a month.

New statistics indicate that more than 3,000 people need home care round-the-clock. In the past, these people would have been cared for at a hospital or an elderly home. According to Swedish Television, 13 percent of people in Sweden, who are above the age of 80, live in elderly homes, and that proportion has decreased in recent years, with more and more people living at home.

Rolf Lindström, who is part of a pensioners' council in Örnsköldsvik, notices that concern is growing among the elderly:

"We meet many elderly people who worry about the situation. We try to encourage them to apply to an elderly home, but many don't think it's worth it. There aren't any spots, and we encounter resistance when we get in contact with the municipality," Lindström told Swedish Television.

Marta Szebehely, a professor of social work, explained that as the number of dwellings in elderly homes have decreased so quickly, there has been a lot more pressure for elderly people to live at home. "That means that today, people are much sicker, and come to an elderly home much later. I don't think this is a good solution," she added.

Swedish Television News in Halland spoke to a woman who wanted to remain anonymous, who has worked within the elderly care sector for nearly forty years, and she said that many elderly people feel lonely.

"Many elderly don't go outside. I've noticed that several people have gotten depressed because of being so lonesome," and when the reporter asked what she plans to do when she gets old, she replied, "I've decided to move abroad after I'm 65. I don't want to get old in this country. I shiver every day just thinking of getting old."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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