Swedish appeals court supports municipality in the degradation of the aged

“It is not the pain of death that frightens as much as the degradations of growing old”.

As we live longer, it seems, we also have a longer period of being useless in the eyes of surrounding society. People with diminished capabilities are provided Home Care help in Sweden. This applies also to the elderly until – say with dementia or Alzheimers – they have to be placed (hidden away) in “care” homes where their capabilities gradually deteriorate. The treatment meted out to them also deteriorates and, as we see in so many cases, the lack of care becomes institutionalised. In some cases the lack of care becomes intentional mistreatment. As the elderly become useless to society, society shows them that they are useless.

In Sweden the increase in longevity and the expenditure incurred by the welfare state leads to the care of the elderly becoming primarily a cost issue. The level of care is no longer about quality, let alone excellence, but instead of the minimum to be “acceptably” provided. Though the elderly are an increasing number of the population, politically they are grossly underrepresented in parliament. Age discrimination may be illegal but it is endemic. Privatised care givers and homes have the municipalities as their clients and paymasters. The municipalities just want to do the minimum necessary to stay within their budgets and comply with their legal obligations. So in both privatised and municipal run homes, there is an incentive to reduce costs – and the quality of care – to a minimum. And the municipalities are now using the Courts – where the elderly are hardly represented – to establish the minima they can get away with. The quality of life of the elderly is not really of concern to the municipalities. Their only concern is a minimum compliance with the law.

This is a case reported in Hallands Posten, and it shows the insidious way in which a municipality uses the courts to establish a minimum level of care – in this case how often a person needs to shower during the provision of Home Care. But what has also been established by this unfortunate judgement is that the Social Services Act does not include the “well-being” of the elderly  as being part of a “reasonable standard of living”. Clearly no care giver or care home need now help any of their charges to shower more than 3 times a week!

I wonder how many of the judges on the Appeal bench or how many members of the Home Care Board consider 3 showers a week reasonable for themselves. But of course, they are not elderly.

Hallands Posten:

An 82-year-old man who has fought to be able to shower every day lost his fight against the municipality. The Appeal Court accepted the view of the Home Care Board that three showers a week is enough.

The man has dementia and does not always manage to get to the toilet in time. He also suffers from oily skin and greasy hair and wants to feel clean and fresh every day. But the Home Care Board found that three showers a week was enough. The man appealed to the Administrative Court – which found in his favour.  The Court ruled that the 82-year-old had a quite extensive need for help and to have a shower every day was a reasonable requirement.

But the Home Care Board refused to accept that judgement and argued that it was based on a judgement of well-being. They claimed that the  Social Services Act says nothing about a daily shower to be included in a “reasonable standard of living”.

I would go so far as to say that the Courts are part of the institutionalised discrimination against, and for the degradation of, the elderly. However, they only interpret laws made by parliaments where the elderly are under-represented. But I have a measure of contempt for the Halmstad municipality which has not the courage to take a call on what is right, and instead has used the Courts to come to a minimum liability. And the well-being of their elderly citizens is clearly not of any importance.

 

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