April 7, 2010

SWEDEN: 'Don't separate elderly couples,' says Minister

. STOCKHOLM, Sweden / The Local Sweden / Society / April 7, 2010 Public health minister Maria Larsson has called for a new law forcing local councils to jointly house older couples following a spate of high profile cases in which people requiring elderly care have been separated from their partners. As minister with responsibility for elderly care, Larsson said she was tired of councils that shirked their responsibility. "There have been too many case of late where things haven't worked, which has led to a point that necessitates binding legislation," she said. "Municipalities need to be obliged to find solutions that match the wishes of elderly people." The issue has come to the fore after a number of older couples were denied the right to joint municipal care, with councils often citing a lack of space and resources. In Eskilstuna in central Sweden, for example, Arne and Gunnel Kojefors, 94 and 86, are fighting for the right to continue living together after 63 years under the same roof. "It seems we can get a home each, so we can visit each other daily. But it's not the same as living together. It should be a human right for a couple to live together for as long as the possibility exists," Arne Kojefors told Aftonbladet. The council's decision to keep them apart is based on the fact that Arne has been deemed healthy enough to continue living alone with some home help, whereas his wife suffers from senile dementia and requires more comprehensive care, the newspaper reports. Maria Larsson, the Christian Democrat cabinet minister, stressed that legislation takes some time to prepare and would not be presented prior to this September's general election. Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund expressed his intention on Thursday to urge his partners in the governing Alliance to make the joint home care guarantee an election promise. But Larsson said she didn't see the guarantee as an election issue. "There's no opposition to the proposal," she said. [rc] The Local E-Mail: news@thelocal.se Copyright The Local Europe AB