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The Norwegian Nurses Organisation claims: Care dwellings may offer a false sense of security
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Published November 19, 2007

Care dwellings are unsuitable for the most feeble elderly people and those with dementia. This finding emerged from an interview study that SINTEF has carried out in 12 Norwegian municipalities on behalf of the Norwegian Nurses Organisation.

While care dwellings are fine for the healthy elderly who are still functioning well, the study reveals that both feeble elderly people and those who suffer from dementia and live in such housing do not receive sufficient support. The report bases this lack primarily on personnel who are not sufficiently “on the spot” or readily available.

"This confirms that many care dwellings are not capable of solving the problems of health and illness that many old people have to contend with. I would go so far as to say that many care dwelling schemes give elderly sick people and their families a false sense of security” says Bente G. H. Slaatten, who leads the Norwegian Nurses Organisation.

The study shows that care dwellings cover the whole spectrum from unmanned housing units to those with permanent care personnel.

“If care dwellings are to offer good facilities to the frailest old people, they must be able to call for help when they need it. We also believe that there ought to be trained, competent health personnel available on an all-day basis in order to observe them and follow up any cases of illness and health problems”, says Slaatten.

Many of the informants interviewed, ranging from local authority executive officers to health and care workers, agreed in their assessment that care dwellings for the frailest old people need more personnel. By and large, their  residents are given help with their personal care and basic requirements, but according to the survey, more staff are needed to cope with the needs of occupants for security and social contact.

Staff would also like to see more nurses who are capable of, and have time for, working directly with patients, but who can also offer guidance and follow up their overall situation.

“An important picture from the inside”
Reidun Norvoll, a researcher at SINTEF Health Research, emphasises that the study is based on a small sample of local authorities, and that it is not certain how far the results reflect the situation in the country as a whole.

The study is largely based on the informants’ subjective evaluations of the scope and quality of the services offered.

However, the SINTEF researcher maintains that the results are still important, because the study offers an in-depth picture of the practical experiences of staff members of the major efforts being made by the health authorities and local government in the field of care dwellings for elderly people.

“What is important next is to obtain better knowledge of how the residents themselves and their families perceive care dwellings. It was not possible to do this within the scope of the present project”, says Norvoll.

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