Photo: Janne Lindroos/YLE
The government’s own National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has produced a new report on the needs, use and experience for social and healthcare services for pensioners in Finland. The respondents were divided into several annual income categories with the lowest income at €15 000 and the highest above €30 000.
The vast majority reported that they needed to see a doctor at the local healthcare centre at least once each year. Those with the lowest income were the most regular visitors. This is explained partly by socio-economic health inequalities. Low income is associated with weaker physical and psychological condition among the elderly.
“Low-income elderly people, especially those on low incomes, often avoid going to a doctor because of a lack of money. Even the lowest fees for healthcare are too high and results in care not being sought. Public dental care is relatively expensive, and matters are much worse on the private side according to the report.
Living alone increases the need for home care
According to the report, 25% of the lowest income category, aged 75 or over, need home-nursing or home-care services, while only 10% of the highest earners have the same needs.
More low income earners are more susceptible to infirmity and living alone, which increases their need for treatment and care at home.
According to the researcher at THL, Ms. Katri Hannikainen, the Finnish government has increased home-care while reducing the number of care and nursing centres for the elderly. According to her conclusion this policy has been a failure as too many aged cistern as left without proper care from medical professionals.
The situation has become almost intolerable because many low income folk are without medicine that they cannot afford, and without nutritious food because helpers and carers are to few in number to handle the large and increasing numbers of such elderly patients who now live in their own homes spread over large areas. This policy is extremely wasteful of public resources because it results in extensive travel time between clients.
The study was extensive and made from data collected in 2013-2015 with a sample of 54,853 of whom 69% people responded.
More recently Urpo Kangas, Professor of Civil Law at Helsinki, noted that the home-care system is too lightly resourced and has not stayed in step with the dismantling of nursing homes. Anna Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen, Director of the Institute of Wellbeing at the University of Eastern Finland, agrees with him.
Their comments came after reports of a shocking number of deaths of elderly patients whose bodies were discovered at their homes many days after their deaths.
The present government is responsible for the miserable situation when they passed the Elderly Act in 2015, which has increased home-care and closed down nursing homes.
Professor Kangas said, “If and when there is a dramatic reduction in hospital care and home care remains unchanged, inhuman lonely home deaths will continue to increase. Some are not even reported”.
Many family members are exhausted with legal battles on behalf of their elderly relatives with courts handling constant complaints from relatives who definitely need long-term care but cannot receive it. This includes the special risk group includes people living alone with memory problems.
If a person is unable or unable to remember, for example, to eat or take his medication, then he is clearly in need of 24/7 care at a professional nursing home.
Professor Kangas is of the opinion that the proposed SOTE healthcare reform will only make this situation worse because the new huge Counties will be far more removed from individual cases that were once the responsibility of the local municipality.