Distressing circumstances for elderly people living at home who need more care


Elderly people nowadays stay at home as long as possible. That goes well until more care is needed. Because despite the fact that the government promises that elderly people will also receive care at home, as in the old people’s home, this is often not the case in practice. Nursing homes and hospitals are full and care homes have disappeared. Home care also has staff shortages. This is the conclusion of an investigation of the investigative journalistic television program Zembla from BNNVARA. Where elderly people living at home and their GPs have been followed, to see the consequences of the “longer home” policy in practice.

General practitioners sound the alarm bell

For a number of years, the government has been encouraging the elderly to live at home for as long as possible. Older people with a slight demand for care no longer go to the care home, but receive their care at home. This saves a lot of money: by closing care homes and transferring a large part of elderly care to municipalities, the government is cutting back billions of euros. At the end of 2019, thousands of general practitioners are sounding the alarm bell. Their elderly people living at home cannot go anywhere and caregivers fall over. Arranging the right care is almost impossible because the system is far too complex. December 2019 they present their concerns at the Ministry of Health. A lot of their time goes on visiting people and looking for suitable care. The GPs call numerous home care organizations, but there is often not enough staff to care for an elderly person. They call nursing homes, but the waiting lists continue to grow there. And they call the hospital if there is no place else for their older patient. GP Idris Brouwer: “It seems like everyone can say” no “, except the doctor.”

Hospital beds occupied for too long

“I would not like to be a doctor right now,” says Kees Kalisvaart geriatrician of the Spaarne Gasthuis in Haarlem opposite Zembla. “This is almost war medicine.” The elderly come to him in the hospital, after they have fallen home – often literally. Many of them turn out to be worse than they see for themselves. They cannot just go back home, so another form of care must be found. But it is also difficult to find from the hospital. The result: the older person is sometimes waiting for weeks, while he or she has long since finished hospital treatment. Because the elderly in a hospital hold a bed, planned operations must be postponed. Also in the hospital the emergency department sometimes closes for a while and ambulances have to continue to another hospital. Peter Langenbach, chairman of the board of Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam, is concerned: “GPs are overflowing, elderly care institutions are overflowing, hospitals are overflowing … the entire system is under pressure.”

Arched to close care homes

Bart Meijman, one of the general practitioners who has united in an action group It must change, thinks a big mistake has been made in The Hague: “It has been anarchy to close those care homes so radically.” Geriater Kalisvaart agrees: “You now have people who end up in the hospital, who would not be there if they just had good care in a care home. And you have people who now go to the nursing home, who would otherwise stay in the nursing home. ” With an average of 800 euros per day a hospital bed is a lot more expensive than a bed in an institution for the elderly.

The opinion of minister De Jonge

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has previously indicated that he sees no salvation in the nursing home: “Going back to the past is not the solution for tomorrow. But what I do think is that we have to look for new forms of living and care. And that is not going fast enough at the moment, so we have to stimulate it harder. On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, it appears that this year up to 475 million euros is too short for long-term care for the elderly and the disabled. Because Dutch people are getting older, they stay at home longer and longer, so they need more care when they end up in a nursing home. On Wednesday 12 February, the minister responded that the government should indeed “considerably” allocate more money for nursing home care. “There is no other way” now that a forecast shows that this care is likely to fall short of 342 to 475 million euros this year.

View the stories

In the broadcast “No place for the elderly” by Zembla From Thursday, February 13, 2020, you can see the stories of various elderly people living at home and their doctors. You can review the episode online.

(Source: Zembla, ANP)

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