As mentioned in previous blog entries, worldwide, countries are facing challenges due to aging. By 2050, the elderly will outnumber children under the age of 15, mostly in developing countries. So, reforms for more cost-effective health care systems for elderly’s long-term care are becoming more and more important. Sweden is known for its universal and comprehensive social and health care programs. Most care is funded by citizen’s taxes. In fact, Sweden allocates 3.6% of its GDP on long-term care and also provides the highest number of health care workers for the elderly over the age of 65. As a result, it is not surprising that in 2013, Sweden was ranked first for treatment of elderly in a United Nations (UN) supported global study, The Global AgeWatch Index (BBC).
Sweden is one of the nations that established reforms which focus on and encourage high quality long-term care for elderly in institutions as well as in home care. In Sweden, municipalities are responsible for elderly care and provide funding for in home assistance as well as manage the needs of accessible housing. 94% of the elderly over the age of 65 live at home and are given the opportunity to live an independent life, even if someone is in need of supported assistance. If an older person needs assistance from a health care worker, he or she can apply for this assistance. In addition, most regions offer ready-cooked meals which are even delivered to the elderly’s home.
Sweden’s approach of taking care of the elderly in their own home is unique and allows them to keep their independence. In addition, their families are at ease knowing that their loved ones are in good care. Is this a system that can be adopted by other countries? Who wouldn’t wish to live at home until the end of life? Don’t the elderly have a right to decide where they want to live? It is great to see that the Swedish local governments give them the option to either live at home or in accessible housing. The seniors contributed to their communities all their lives. They have worked, raised a family, and paid taxes, therefore securing care for their countrymen and women. They deserve to receive the same high quality of care. In addition to the care the elderly receive, health care workers are needed and appreciated. So it is a win-win situation for everybody: the elderly, their families, as well as all current and futures citizens of Sweden.
Martina Lesperance is a Health Educator and Screening Technician in El Paso, Texas.