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Maltreatment reports increasing in Swedish geriatric care

Bed sores, humiliating treatment and incorrect drug dosages. Many are now reporting maltreatment of elderly to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), and cases are increasing in several parts of the country, according to a survey conducted by news agency TT.

Maltreatment reports increasing in Swedish geriatric care

One 100 year-old woman had her own fist shoved into her mouth. An 85 year-old had white crawling larvae in her infected sores. A sick elderly man received a wrong dosage of insulin.

Reports of maltreatment of elderly are increasing in many parts of the country, despite the fact that Sweden spends more money on geriatric care than any other OECD country.

“We’ve reformed the entire regulatory organisation, and a larger responsibility now rests with the National Board of Health and Welfare,” explained Maria Larsson, minister for children and elderly.

“Previously we haven’t had a national overview of the situation, which we do now. The process needs to be open, and it’s important that nothing gets swept under the rug.”

“Generally speaking our geriatric care in Sweden is good, we notice that when we speak to the patients themselves. Of course, there are flaws and singular cases, and that’s why we need to be open, in order to discover and prevent these,” said Larsson.

Nearly 200 reports of maltreatment, at nursing homes and in geriatric care, were made to the National Board of Health and Welfare’s regional offices last year. Most came from patients’ relatives.

“Smaller issues should be corrected by the counties’ own quality checks, only the bigger mistakes are brought forward to us. This could be severe risks, life-threatening mistakes, administering the wrong drug, or staff acting in an inappropriate manner,” explained Gert Alaby, coordinator of elderly care issues at the National Board of Health and Welfare.

However, very few reports have led to the authority demanding direct measures. Instead, the responsibility for correcting flaws is often shuffled over to counties.

Region Mitt, an area covering the counties Uppsala, Gävleborg, Västmanland and Dalarna, received 36 complaints between 2010 and 2011. Only eight of these led to action.

For Region Öst, which is Stockholm and Gotland, the authority only demanded that measures be taken in five of 56 cases. Even so, in every case, a dialogue is held with the county, about how best to solve the problem.

“Counties are now responsible to ensure the problem is solved, and mistakes corrected. But if this doesn’t resolve the situation, we are now able to both prohibit businesses and fine them,” said Larsson.

New legislation, brought into effect July 1st this year, counties are obliged to report lex Sarah-cases, reports of maltreatment within geriatric care, to the National Board of Health and Welfare.

However, the tendency to report varies from county to county.

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Police probe mystery death at Swedish care home after spate of overdoses

Police are investigating one case of murder and two attempted murders at a care home in the west of Sweden, after a doctor raised the alarm about suspicious insulin overdoses.

Police probe mystery death at Swedish care home after spate of overdoses
At least of the women did not normally receive insulin injections. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
“There is one man who died in connection to the events,” Stina Lundqvist, the prosecutor in the case, told the local Göteborgs Tidning newspaper.
 
“All of these three people who received a medication which they were not supposed to have, according to what they were prescribed,” she added in an interview with Swedish state radio broadcaster SR
 
“We are investigating the events as attempted murder,” she told Sweden's TT newswire, which reported that it could be a case of active euthanasia, which is illegal in Sweden, although the prosecutor did not comment.
 
The doctor reported his suspicions to the police after two women from the same section of the care home were admitted to the hospital, both suffering from extremely low blood sugar. 
 
“Through giving the plaintiff insulin, someone has caused her to lose consciousness and stop breathing,” a senior doctor at the hospital wrote in a police report.
 
The doctor added that the woman would not have been capable of administering the insulin herself. 
 
In January this year, a third resident from the same section of the same care home, was also admitted to the hospital suffering from low blood sugar. It was then that police put a prosecutor on the case. 
 
“It's unlikely to be a coincidence because it is all from the same section and is the same type of event,” Lundqvist told TT.
 
“But it's a slightly special case. We can't say with confidence that this is an attempted murder. That's something we hope the investigation will shed some light on.” 
 
“There are certain elements which suggest a crime has been committed, although exactly what evidence this is, I cannot go into at present.” 
 
 
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At least one of the women did not normally take insulin, and another was admitted with a type of insulin in her body different from that which she was prescribed. 
 
According to a report in a local newspaper, a police search of the home found two empty insulin pens containing fast-acting insulin which were not registered in the home's records. 
 
Lundqvist said it was a “complicated investigation”, as many of the staff who worked at the home at the time had already moved on. 
 
“We have no one at present we could reasonably call a suspect, but of course there are people we are looking closely at,” she said. “It's of course a natural part of our investigation to look at who has been working at the home when all the events took place.” 
 
The prosecutor in the case, Stina Lundqvist, says there is not yet a suspect. Photo: Adam Ihse/Exponera
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