During the last 20 years the amount of institutional care for the elderly has declined by around 10 per cent. Provision of new nursing home beds has leveled off, while the number of homes provided for the elderly has declined sharply.
The Stoltenberg government has promised to increase the number of nursing home rooms by 12,000 before 2015. However, from 2006 to 2009 the number of nursing home beds rose by only 481, according to newspaper Aftenposten. While the government has guaranteed the rights of small children to a spot in a day care center, the government won’t guarantee the elderly’s right to a nursing home spot.
As traditional homes for the elderly have disappeared, new facilities which include assistance and care services, so-called omsorgsboliger, have mushroomed. One of the prime differences between the two is that the omsorgsbolig is considered to be the private home of the pensioner. This means that the costs formerly borne by the institution now must be shouldered by the resident. In many cases, care is also provided by nurses and nursing assistants in the elderly’s own residence.
“Both I and Seniorsaken (an interest group championing senior rights), have been concerned for many years about the decline in the number of nursing home beds in exchange for assisted housing schemes,” says Harry Martin Svabø, the head of Seniorsaken, to Aftenposten. He thinks that only a small minority of candidates for nursing homes are fit enough to manage in assisted housing. He also worries about the economic burden placed on the individual.
Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen of the Labour Party agrees there are not enough nursing beds but stresses that’s why the government has promised to build 12,000 new nursing home rooms by 2015. She also claims “we have made it possible for far more people to live at home, which is why we have many more employed to serve their needs.”