|Politicians blasted over deficient care for the elderly|
| [30.08.2007, 11:54pm, Thu. GMT]|
|Norway's so-called "cradle-to-grave" social security system seems to be disappearing, despite the country's vast oil wealth. Complaints over health care and overcrowded schools have long been an issue, and now alarming statistics are emerging over deficient care for the elderly. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that it's becoming more and more difficult for elderly Norwegians to get a bed in a nursing home, nearly all of which are public institutions in Norway. Few private options exist. The vast majority of those who are allocated a nursing home room are over 90 years old, and those who win admission also are much weaker and sicker than successful applicants were just 10 years ago.The reason is an acute shortage of nursing homes and staff to run them. Even if more private alternatives were available, most Norwegians have paid high taxes all their lives and come to expect that they'll be cared for in their twilight years. Under traditional terms, those entering state nursing homes pay a high percentage of their total income to the state for their care, but retain their personal assets.|
So serious have nursing home deficiencies become that the government minister in charge of health and social care, Sylvia Brustad of the Labour Party, had to promise an investigation this week into charges that those who do secure a spot in state homes are often undernourished.
"Many have told me about poor and tasteless food in our nursing homes," Brustad said. ""We know that undernourishment among the elderly is a problem, and when surveys show that the incidence is between 20 and 50 percent, that's too much."
There also have been huge cutbacks in the amount and quality of care for elderly Norwegians who want to remain in their homes. The elderly with special needs now only get limited help at home, and Oslo ranked worst in the country for its home care programs.
The issue is flaring up just as politicians all over the country are lmmersed in the first week of the campaign leading up to local elections in September. Norway's center-left coalition government, which has long claimed to be a champion of social welfare causes, has been confronted with deficiencies and promises improvements.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party, on a campaign swing through the community of Eiker, promised 12,000 new nursing home beds by 2015 and introduction of permanent, presumably more reliable, home care for those who don't use the nursing homes.
Stoltenberg's promise hinges on extra state funding for construction of new nursing homes and housing for the elderly, starting in 2008.
More funding also was promised for care of those suffering memory loss and dementia, along with more support for their families.
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