Saturday 22 January 2022

Doctors sound the alarm over care of the frail elderly at home

The Dutch family doctors’ association has warned that thousands of frail elderly people are being left vulnerable because they no longer qualify for residential care.

The government wants people to stay in their own homes for longer with the help of family and friends but doctors say they are at risk of malnutrition and depression and could be a fire risk, Nos said in a special report.

‘This is reason to sound the alarm,’ said LHV chairman Steven van Eijck. ‘Quality of care cannot be guaranteed like this.’

Fears

The LHV asked 875 family doctors in almost 300 local authority areas for their thoughts on the policy shift. In total, 83% said they think the frail elderly will not eat or drink enough, neglect their personal hygiene and become lonely and depressed.

Since the beginning of this year, fewer elderly people are deemed eligible for care homes. Instead, local councils and insurance companies are responsible for providing them with tailor-made care services. But budgets have been cut, there are not enough community nurses and doctors are being overloaded, the LHV says.

One doctor told the LHV about an elderly couple aged 94 and 92 who still live independently with some help but have been told they will not qualify for any assistance from next year.

Another warned about the pressure on children, who often live far away and are unable to assume all the care duties the government expects.

‘Doctors agree that it is better if people live independently for as long as possible,’ Van Eijck said. ‘But this has to be done responsibly and the care system is not always in place.’

Fire

The ombudsman for the elderly has also warned that neighbours are concerned at the risk of fire when frail elderly people are left to cook for themselves.

The Dutch insurance association VvV told Nos that the over 80s are three times as likely to make a claim for fire damage than the 50-55 age group. This year, six of the 18 people who have died in a fire so far were elderly.

Junior health minister Martin van Rijn told Nos that home care for the frail elderly still needs to be properly organised. ‘I am taking this very seriously and I understand people’s concerns,’ he said.

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