SWEDEN. Politicians have saved money on the care of the elderly for decades. Perhaps as they are an easy group to target because most of them are too sick and frail to protest.

Pernilla Andersson is a Swedish musician came to visit her father on his retirement home. She found him sitting on his bed, in his feaces with shit caked under his nails. His comforter is gone, the room stunk and his diaper was missing. In the closet Pernilla found a pair of neatly folded pants with faeces inside them.

The staff said that they hadn’t been able to change his clothes as he was cross. Who wouldn’t be if you had to sit in soiled clothes and make it obvious for everyone that you’re not able to care for yourself. The loss of integrity and self-respect is perhaps the hardest blow a person can ever experience and even someone who is far along in their dementia still notices if their integrity is violated. It must be preserved all the time. Here’s where the art of nursing is vital and why not everybody is suited for working with the old and the sick.

So he’s cross, well what makes him happy? Can you, for example, turn on a favourite album and sit down and have a cup of coffee with him? Just a few minutes to calm down and become and ally. Time, patience, knowledge of the patient and some gentle coaxing can do wonders. Then you may suggest that he helps you with something so he feels in control. After that you offer to help him with a shower, without mentioning that he’s soiled. Talk about how relaxing the warm water is, how it only takes a minute. All through you observe him and adapt.

Taking care of the elderly isn’t something you can rush through, but the municipalitys have saved money on staff for decades. Two people are supposed to care for 10-12 elderly who are very ill and need a lot of care. When relatives and health care staff have spoken up politicians have mostly ignored them or tried to deflect by claiming that the problem is something else. And nothing happens.

Pernilla brought her father home with her, helped him shower and then they had dinner together. He was pleased. But Pernilla has reported this to the authorities as it’s pure neglect. It’s a good thing everytime someone speaks out about these things and especially famous people so it gets noticed. But I fear for the future as the municipalities economic problems increase.