Sweden is well known for the generosity and quality of its social welfare provision.
Sweden is well known for the generosity and quality of its social welfare provision, so we (Jan, Janet and Ethna, joined by Jean Dolmor, Care Home Manager from St. Dominic’s Kelvedon and Clive Weir Proprietor of Boars Tye House Witham ) were delighted to have the opportunity recently to exchange ideas with a group of four Care Home managers from Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg. We also heard an interesting presentation from Scott Phillips of Health Care Management Partners (a US company that is also involved in the British care market) about the care market in the UK.
This meeting was arranged by Professor Stephen Moore of Anglia Ruskin University and we hope it may be the start of a longer term link with our Swedish colleagues, whose inspiring statement of their vision is quoted above.
Like us, Sweden has a population whose age structure is changing rapidly. By 2030, they expect some 30% of the population to be aged over 65. Currently, most care provision is provided by the public authorities, although some privatisation is starting to take place. Provision includes both very comprehensive home care services and residential care and is available as a right. No distinction is made between “social” and “nursing” care and most of the staff employed in care homes, which are managed by qualified nurses, have received a minimum of two years of training. Volunteers are not traditionally seen as having a role in care provision.
Sweden spends a great deal more, per capita, than we do on the care of older people, but the truly striking thing about the presentation from our visitors was not the material element but their passionate commitment to their aspiration – to be “the best in Sweden”. We were treated to an inspiring presentation about the home managed by two of the visitors and the way that they have set about making that vision a reality.
Residents, who are legally tenants and known as such, and their families, are involved in every aspect of the running of the home, including the management of the budget, environment, facilities, menus etc. Staff duties and patterns of work are wholly focussed on helping the tenants to live as they wish, maintain the activities they have always enjoyed and remain full and respected members of the community. They swim, they go on vacation, they attend football matches, they enjoy their own bar and spa, they drink wine with their meals……Some of the people at the meeting were asking “when can I move in?”
Eva, who gave this part of the presentation, stressed two important aspects of life at the home in which she works. Firstly, no-one is normally excluded from the activities and facilities on offer, no matter what their level of disability. Secondly, these activities are for every day. They are not special occasions, but, simply, the daily life of the home and the tenants who live there. In order to make this possible, each staff member works with a small group of tenants with matched or complementary needs and preferences. This allows them to build close bonds and support their individual preferences.
Eva expressed the underlying philosophy succinctly:
Our tenants don’t live in our workplace – we work in their home.
Although there are huge differences between provisions in Sweden and in Britain, and despite differences in the way they are expressed, we felt that we and our visitors had much in common in our ideas and aspirations for the way our older people can and should be supported to live fully until the end of life. There is also much we can learn from one another. We look forward to future discussions and, in the meantime, we will remember our visitors’ vision and go on working to make the care of older people in Essex “Britain’s best"!