Social Democrats champion elderly

The opposition's Social Democrats propose a written contract for senior citizens to ensure care levels

More focus on the elderly and welfare in general formed the primary message of the Social Democrats at their summer meeting outside of Horsens in Jutland this week.

A number of scandals in elderly care this past year, including reports of filthy homes and overworked staff, provided the impetus for the Social Democrats' proposal.

In addition to allocating DKK 600 million to improve care, a written contract that informs elderly of their rights was among the items in their proposal.

'We've lost patience with the care the elderly are offered today,' said party leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt. 'We hear so often about unbearable conditions with only offering residents a bath every two weeks, and I think that simply does not belong in a welfare society. That's why we have to demand minimum standards for every senior citizen across the country.'

Analysts considered the welfare proposal as an attempt for the party to win influence in the upcoming budget negotiation this autumn, but the minister of social affairs, Eva Kjer Hansen, offered a cool reception: 'The elderly are already well-informed. It's a given right for them.'

Reactions from the government's support party, the Danish People's Party (DF), were more positive.

'The Social Democrats and we have a common task to make sure the government understands that we have to be more pushy in our oversight of municipalities,' said Peter Skaarup, DF's political affairs spokesperson.

Reactions from senior citizen homes themselves were also mixed. Erik Lehm, the head of the national organisation for nursing home managers, felt the contract would provide a step in the right direction.

'If as a citizen you are to know what you have the right to, then you have to have it in writing. That is also the prerequisite for being able to file a complaint,' Lehm told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende.

The effectiveness of a contract was questionable, however, in the eyes of Kirsten Petersen, a manager of a home in the Copenhagen suburb of Brønshøj.

'The elderly who live at nursing homes are quite weak,' said Petersen. 'Over half of them suffer from dementia, so the elderly will not be able to complain, even if they had the possibility.'

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