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Survey: More than half of Finnish residents won’t care for ageing parents

Some 54 percent of respondents said they would not be up to caring for their elderly parents at home.

Vanhukset istuvat sohvalla, lähikuva käsistä.
Just 46 percent of those surveyed said they would be caregivers for ageing parents. Image: Simo Pitkänen / Yle
Denise Wall

It’s well known that the Finnish population is ageing and becoming more infirm. At the same time, more elderly and sick folk want to be cared for at home for as long as possible.

Relatives will have to bear some of the responsibility for caring for seniors, but according to a new survey by Yle’s Akuutti medical programme, many people aren’t willing to step up and take care of their elderly relatives.

The survey polled nearly 1,000 respondents between the ages of 15 and 79 and found that less than half – some 46 percent – said they would be willing to care for their parents. However significantly more said they would be prepared to care for a spouse or child at home – 76 and 83 percent, respectively.

”Of course the survey results are worrying. It is partly explained by the pressure of professional life and living in different cities,” said Marja Tuomi, head of the national caregivers association Carers Finland.

However Tampere University gerontology professor Marja Jylhä said the outcome is quite realistic.

“You have to remember that it is actually difficult to answer this question before people really encounter the situation. It is hard to assess the abstract in advance. I would bet that many of those who said in the survey that they wouldn’t care for their parents would do it if the situation arose. On the other hand, not everyone who said they would be a caregiver would be able to,” she pointed out.

Tough call for low income earners

Income is one factor that could explain an individual’s desire -- or lack of it -- to become a carer for a loved one. The larger the income of adult children, the more likely they were to want to care for their parents.

Conversely, the survey indicated that low income earners were least willing to take on the role, perhaps because staying away from work for too long would have a negative impact on their earnings, Jylhä said.

Age is another factor that may determine whether or not children decide to care for their parents. The survey revealed that adult children under the age of 50 are markedly more inclined to be caregivers for aging parents than over-50 year-olds.

Many may also be concerned about the physically demanding nature of caring for the aged and sick. Changing diapers for a mother or father may just be too much for some.

”It could feel tough to see the fragility of your own parents. It is a tangible reminder of the limits of time and your own mortality,” Tuomi noted.

The poll was conducted by pollster Taloustutkimus for Yle Akuutti and gathered responses from 995 respondents by phone between 18 and 29 December. The margin of error was some 2.5 percentage points in either direction.

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