The elderly in Finland need an active and proactive independent Ombudsman

Finns have always said that they look after their own, especially the elderly. However, it appears that the privatization of elderly care homes to large companies by municipalities is leading to some very unpleasant practices.

This last weekend, I have spoken with grandmother and her 2 daughters, about her ongoing experiences today in the care home. The grandmother is over 90 years old and is living in a care home run privately for Vantaa city.

She is able to walk, although with some difficulty, but does not suffer from dementia or any other serious infirmity. Her speech is clear and her hearing is fine.

She told me that there is very little activity in the home. She can spend days alone in her room without anyone taking the trouble to take her for a walk in the garden or a little further.

The food is terrible – mainly porridge and similar cheap foodstuffs.

Her medicines are not always delivered as agreed, and the room is not kept clean enough, at least not to her standards.

She is concerned that that she will be singled out as a trouble maker if she or her daughters complain about the lack of promised standards. Plenty of promises were made when she enrolled.

The daughters have had discussions with the head of the care house and with some municipal officials. Promises are made but nothing happens afterwards.

She told me stories of those patients, her neighbors, who do not have support family members. Their life is said to be one long downhill lonely path to death. It is a chilling story.

Privatization has led to cost cutting. Some 4 weeks ago I spoke with a senior HUS doctor working in an Espoo city hospital. Good experienced workers are replaced with cheaper lower cost and less experienced care workers. Fewer workers are allocated to care to the elderly residents.

If a private company has a monopoly position in any municipality then this type of immoral corporate behavior can flourish. Who is protecting the elderly? The idea that a municipal employee can handle this task in robust manner unconvincing – they only follow orders and have no incentive and perhaps little authority to ensure that change has occurred.

Finland needs an independent ombudsman for the elderly, and that is needed now.