In October 2014, suspicions arose that a private care service provider had poisoned an elderly person in his care in Southwest Finland, after swindling a large sum of her money. This extremely shocking case has shaken the Finnish elderly care system to its foundations. It has also sparked fear and concerns over the adequacy of resources for and monitoring of home care services.
Living alone at home can make an elderly person feel vulnerable and anxious. Home is often thought to be the best place for older people but home care services for the elderly leave much to be desired. Typical problems plaguing the services include an imbalance between the supply of and demand for services, unclear division of responsibility between care providers, a shortage of rehabilitation services and a high number of mistakes taking place in the administration of medication. There are also huge regional differences in the availability and quality of care.
With a legislative reform that strengthens the position of home care as the primary form of elderly care, the government aims to increase the number of elderly people continuing to live at home. The goal is create savings to the tune of 300 million euros by cutting the number of beds available in care facilities.
This is not a new policy as the systematic reduction of the number of places in care homes began in 2000. By 2014, the number of beds available to the elderly at health care centres and other similar care facilities was down by nearly 65 per cent. This is an alarming trend as not everybody remains mobile and in good health into old age. The shortage of resources renders the services for the elderly unable to meet the needs of older people whose care requirements vary greatly. Too few in number, nurses are always pressed for time.
The declining number of beds in care facilities has led to older people being discharged in poor health to live on their own without proper follow-up, even though frail elderly people should always be found a place in a care home. Now that the aim is to shift the emphasis towards home care through changes to legislation concerning elderly care, we must ensure that the quality and availability of services remains at a high level.
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