The Ulf Nilson column in Nordstjernan, November 2011.
Most Swedes are taught to be extremely proud of their country—not the least because we take such good care of children and the elderly. It's taken for granted—an unshakeable truth!—that we are better, more compassionate and also more efficient than all others. We are simply world champions, the b e s t!
But are we?
Forgive me if I'm not at all sure.
I write this after many months in Sweden, where my mother-in-law (who is 87) is ill. It has not been a nice experience.…
In the first hospital (I will not mention names) she soon started to talk incoherently about being poisoned and persecuted—she wanted out, home, away. We talked to the doctor who, after shaking his head, said something like, "Hm, mm, it might just be.…"
Turns out it was. She had gotten a popular medicine (they come in waves) that made her hallucinate—yes, that's the word they started to use after a while. The poor woman saw criminals in her empty room and tried to talk to them. She whispered to us that we should take her away in secret, run away, escape.
After a while the medicine was withdrawn and she cleared up. It should also be told, however, that we had several experiences of the same kind during a period of three months, this leading to the conclusion that doctors subscribe medicines without r e a l l y knowing what will happen. Habits, doing-the-usual-thing, chance taking—you name it. There were ten patients in this particular ward and four attendants. The patients were milling around, talking incoherently, quarreling, sleeping in chairs, sometimes screaming. Nobody seemed to care and (having had the same experience in several places) I had to conclude that nobody really cares about old people. They are not cared for, just kept away, in fact incarcerated. They will not be run over by cars in the streets (that would be messy) but also not treated as human beings. Behind it all you sense the thought, call it the governing principle: They are too old to be any good.
We no longer (as in Viking times) throw them off a cliff, but we most certainly want them to die as soon as possible, for they no longer produce. They are a b u r d e n for us, the young and efficient. Lets not look at them any more, lets hope they die.
Coming to the “home” (as it’s called) where my mother-in-law is housed, we were met one day by a nurse, who smiled and said:
"It's so nice see you coming. You have been the only ones for a long time now.…"
The only ones! meaning that nine out of ten patients were not visited by friends nor relatives. They were left to fend for themselves, or rather, to die.
Die lonesome in a chaos of elderly angst and debility, that’s what Sweden—the ultimate welfare state—has in store for those who no longer c o n t r i b u t e, who do not work and pay the highest taxes on the planet. If you are old, you are definitely a second class citizen, a burden and thus somebody who should have had the good sense to die.
To you who sense a certain bitterness in what I write, I should perhaps add that I myself am nearly 79, still working and not without means. But.…