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Framing scandalous nursing home care: what is the problem?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2014

School of Social Work, Lund University, Sweden.
Address for correspondence: Håkan Jönson, School of Social Work, Lund University, PO Box 23, 22100 Lund, Sweden. E-mail:


The aim of this article is to investigate different ways in which nursing home scandals in Sweden have been framed, to discuss the relations between these existing frameworks, and to identify ways of describing the problem that are absent in the current debates. Data for the study consisted of media articles, television documentaries and internet debates, expert reports and court hearings, and interviews with representatives of organisations dealing with the issue of mistreatment in care services for older people. An analytical tool developed within social movement research was used to identify three ‘debates’ on such mistreatment in Sweden, where competing ways of framing the problem have been used: (a) a debate where staff are cast as either perpetrators or victims, (b) a debate on privatisation and profit as the motive for neglect of care recipients, and (c) a debate on deserving and non-deserving recipients of socially provided care centred around populist claims. The analysis highlights a need to introduce an alternative frame for interpretation where mistreatment in care for older people is regarded as involving scandalous cases of ageism. This anti-ageism frame would provide older people with a lead role in the drama – not just as victims but as stakeholders in relation to the problem.

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