Dementia, NRK | When people with dementia die of faeces, urine and stench, someone must be held responsible

In the same way that the President of the Storting had to take the consequences of his mistakes, the responsibility must also be placed when municipal services fail.

The comments expresses the writer’s opinions.


In recent days, NRK has focused on a number of shocking cases in Grue municipality in the Inland.

One of the worst stories is about the late Arnfinn Nyhagen (62):

When the family was to pick up the cat in the summer of 2020 and clean out the apartment after the single, slightly peripheral uncle, they smelled an indescribable smell already ten meters from the municipal residence.

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When they opened the front door, the stench of ammonia and stale food hit them. In the bed lay layers upon layers of feces and urine, tried to be covered with duvets and blankets black with mold. Here the uncle had slept the last weeks of his life.

In the fridge and in the freezer, the ground crawled around in rotten food. The power had been turned off five weeks earlier because the uncle had not paid the bill.

But worst of all:

The municipality knew this. The man lived in a retirement home near Grue health park, and the home care service had stopped by several times.

According to NRK, the home service must also have written repeatedly in the patient record that there was poor care in the apartment. Some even had to change clothes after stopping by to give him medicine.

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But nothing happened.

And this is not the first time Grue municipality has failed its most helpless: Over the past ten years, the State Administrator (formerly the County Governor) has found offenses in as many as 11 of 14 supervisory cases in Grue municipality. NRK’s ​​review shows that several of the offenses are about unworthy treatment of the elderly.

But has the municipality learned from all these cases?

No. In August this year, a man in his 50s died in the same home as Arnfinn Nyhagen lived the year before. The “new” was to have a daily call service from Grue municipality. Still, he lay dead for days before anyone discovered him. No one knows how many days.

It is thus in such a situation that the administration in Grue municipality refuses to comment to NRK, while mayor Rune Grenberg (Labor Party) chooses to talk about a “long-term improvement work” since he took office two years ago.

The county doctor in the hinterland, for his part, points directly to the organization and management in the municipality. And what he calls “a culture that has settled down and needs to change.”

These are strong words from a county bureaucrat. And an important question is of course what can be done with such municipalities. Should they be placed under administration? Should the State Administrator intervene with extraordinary measures? And maybe also relevant:

Is Grue municipality with its 4,600 inhabitants simply so small and mismanaged that it should cease to exist – and instead be incorporated into Kongsvinger?

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But before such questions can be answered, the municipality’s residents are entitled to answers to some basic questions:

What really happened? Who received the warnings about Arnfinn Nyhagen’s situation? And where was the responsibility for taking the alerts further? At the municipal manager for health and welfare? At the municipal director? With the rapporteur?

Read more comments by Erik Stephansen

Here, there may be lessons to be learned from the uproar surrounding the now resigned Storting President Eva Kristin Hansen. For just as she had to take responsibility for her mistakes, someone must also be held accountable when municipal services fail or are managed with gross insanity.

“Someone has to go” can sometimes be a worn-out saying. Other times, it expresses a much-needed cleanup. What is the case here, the citizens must gain insight into as soon as possible.

In any case, NRK Innlandet should be praised for reporting on the case. I hope they bite really hard.