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Care poverty threatens home-dwelling old people with memory disorders

Published on 20.12.2019
Tampere University
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People over the age of 75 who suffer from a memory disorder are more likely to be deprived of the help and care they need than other people with chronic illnesses that impair functional ability. People with memory loss have more need for help than other older people living at home and they get much help from their family members and use home care services more often than others. However, even relatives’ help and home care combined are not always sufficient to meet the many needs of home-dwelling older persons with memory problems. People with memory disorders are more likely to face care poverty than people with other kinds of disabilities.

Care poverty, i.e. inadequate care and unmet needs, were studied in a joint project of Tampere University and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. The study analysed the Care, help and everyday life survey data gathered in the cities of Tampere and Jyväskylä in 2010 and 2015. The data was narrowed to those who reported that a long-term illness or disability limited their daily lives (N = 1928). A relative or another close person gave approximately 6 % of the responses.

“There are currently older people with memory disorders of various intensity who require much help. Their needs may be so manifold and complicated that they cannot be met even with informal care and public home care services combined, which means that many suffer from care poverty,” says Postdoctoral Research Fellow Mari Aaltonen from Tampere University.   

Memory disorders are increasing with the ageing population while the number of home-dwelling older people with memory problems is also growing. At present, family members already bear much responsibility for relatives with a memory disorder. Without sufficient and pertinent home care or an opportunity to get round-the-clock care, the situation may become intolerable to the family members and unbearable for the elderly people suffering from those disorders.

“There are home-dwelling older adults in Finland who do not get enough support in their personal daily needs. Our study shows that people with memory disorders are especially likely to suffer from care poverty,” Aaltonen says.

According to the estimates of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, there are currently 200,000 persons with a memory disorder in Finland with around 14,500 new cases occurring annually.

The study was conducted at the Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care and the Gerontology Research Center GEREC.

The original publication:
Aaltonen Mari, Van Aerschot Lina. Unmet needs are common among community-dwelling older people with memory problems in Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. First Published December 8, 2019.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Mari Aaltonen, mari.aaltonen [at]
Postdoctoral Researcher Lina van Aerschot lina.vanaerschot [at]

Photograph: Jonne Renvall