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Grandchild administered resident's meds at old-age home

A resident called his granddaughter to deliver his medication when there was no one else to do it.

A nursing shortage in Finland cause a resident of an elder care facility in Porvoo to reach out to his granddaughter rather than staff to deliver medication. Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

A resident at an old-age home in Porvoo recently phoned his granddaughter asking her to deliver his medication when the centre was understaffed.

This summer has seen a nursing shortage in Finland but the problem is likely to persist this autumn.

Fanny Läckström told Yle she recently received a panicked call from her grandfather living in a publicly funded elder care home in Porvoo. Läckström said her grandfather said there was no qualified nurse available to deliver his medicine, so he asked her to come by and do it.

"My grandfather had not been given a shower or had his medicine, so since I was a close relative it became my job to give him his medicine," Läckström told Yle.

She said the situation was not only difficult for her elderly relative but also for the carers at the facility as there was not enough staff on shift.

Läckström has worked as a home care nurse and was therefore qualified to administer her grandfather's his 21 different medications.

She added that this was not the first time her grandfather had called her in to help out at the facility.

"It actually felt good to do it myself as there was no qualified staff available to do it," she said.

"Acute shortage"

Krister Lindman, who manages elder care services for the city of Porvoo, said Läckström's incident was likely related to an acute staffing shortage.

"During the weekend we don't always have people who can cover, which means elder care facilities have to manage with fewer staff. This of course is not a good thing," he said.

Lindman said the care sector faces difficulties recruiting staff.

"The situation is terrible…we don't have applications coming in for vacant positions. The situation will improve in the autumn, but not much," he said.

As of next year, a new law on eldercare staffing requirements will set a minimum nursing quota for round-the-clock care at old-age institutions at seven caregivers for 10 residents.

Lindman said he was less than optimistic about the binding quota.

"I understand the rationale and it's good. But since we're already short-staffed, the situation is not looking great. We're not going to meet the quota," he said.

Meeting the new legal requirement would mean reducing the number of places available in a facility.

"The government has to think about what 0.7 caregivers per patient means in practice," he told Yle.

Finland is expected to need to recruit around 30,000 more nurses by the year 2030 to meet the demands of an aging population.

Lindman said he encourages family members to contact staff at old-age institutions if they see a problem.

"We always try to address problems and learn from them," he said.