Elderly care scandals raise questions

"We will see more cases"
2:40 min

Putrid bed sores, amputations, and staff whose complaints are censored. A sleuth of recent reports about the state of elderly care in Sweden has put into question whether there is enough insight into profit-driven private companies' standard of care.

The private actor Carema was recently embroiled in a scandal at an elderly residence in Stockholm. Poor hygiene procedures had led to several infections and amputations. Now the media has uncovered that Carema runs a bonus system for its managers.

Some critics question whether there is enough insight into private caregivers within the tax-funded welfare system.

Mats Thorslund, a professor who studies elderly care at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, spoke with Swedish Radio News. He thinks there isn't enough insight into the standard of care. "We only find out when the media or a family member flags the abuse. This is of course not acceptable."

He also says there are big challenges ahead for elderly care as Sweden's population ages. "Unfortunately this is not unusual and unfortunately we will see more of these cases," says Thorslund.

At present there is no official minimum requirement for staff per elder person. The municipalities are left to decide what is acceptable. Thorslund is critical. "It is as simple as there being a minimum of hands on deck required to take care of the elderly."

This autumn, the newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, uncovered a dangerous lack of hygiene procedures at a Stockholm elderly residence run by Carema. An external investigator's report had raised several points of concern a year earlier, but was censored. Thorslund explains, "We had municipal directors rewriting and toning down the problems in official reports which meant the politicians didn't have access to all the information.".

But it is not only private companies that have been scrutinised. Municipal care has also come under fire. A year ago staff at a home in the northern city of Piteå raised the alarm. Elderly residents with dementia were locked into their rooms at night. The employees contacted the Dementia Association.

Its president Stina-Clara Hjulström says, "They were told they'd be fired if they complained. Because we were critical of the National Health Board's lack of overview we decided to report the case to police."

The Dementia Association told Radio Sweden today that although the case was originally dismissed the investigation has now been opened after an appeal.

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