Sweden's the best place in Europe to live in Golden years, but maybe not so fine for the last gasp
Although politicians in Sweden who are running for office in the upcoming elections are promising more money for the elderly and also lower taxes, a recent report reveals that Sweden's retired community is already the best served throughout the European Union. Only about 2% have excessively low incomes, and a sizable percentage of pensioners own a considerable proportion of the country's total wealth.
Disputing the contention of "happy grays" in Sweden, the Swedish National Pensioners' Organization (Pensionärernas Riksorganisation) claims that pensions are backsliding. Over the past 15 years, the organization says that wages of employees have increased by 40% while pensions have remained the same.
Beyond the golden days of graydom, when it comes to paying the price for endgame life care, Sweden ranks number 16 out of the top 40 nations around the world, according to a survey compiled by the intelligence unit of the British publication, The Economist, based on information from sources including the OECD.
In rating the quality of service provided to the soon-to-be departed, factors included access to advice and consultation, availability of pain killers, relationships between physicians and the dying patients and coordination of policies including legal aspects. The availability of pain relieving pharmaceuticals was reported to be most significant and also the worst problem throughout the world. The study blamed attitudes toward such drugs, which in ordinary circumstances are legislated as illegal, along with inexperienced hospice workers for what it called "an incalculable surfeit of suffering, not just for those about to die but also for their loved ones."
England came in first place on this list, although compilers noted that the British health care system in general was far from being the best in the world. Among the top ten, Australia was placed in second place on the international list followed by New Zealand and Ireland. Germany, the US and Canada also made top ten rankings.
Somewhat surprising, the quality of care at the time of dying was figured to be only 22nd from the top in Denmark and 28th in Finland, although the general welfare and social support structures of these nations are among the world's best. Among the world's top 40 countries, India came in last place, although Portugal as well as South Korea and Russia received poor results.
Noting that curative treatments are given priority over palliative care, the study claims that more than 100 million patients and their family caregivers need palliative support annually, but fewer than 8% actually receive it. The conclusion recommends more training for persons providing home care to deal with persons who choose to die at home rather than in palliative care in an institution.
Face of an old Småland farmer captured by photographer Bo Zaunders.