Gullan, 71, ‘too old’ for treatment: clinic

71-year-old Gullan Holmgren from Piteå, in northern Sweden, is 'too old' for pain rehab, according to the pain rehabilitation unit at the local hospital that turned her away.

“I might be over 70, but that doesn’t mean I am dead yet,” said an outraged Holmgren to The Local.

Holmgren, who has had chronic pain after an unsuccessful hip operation six years ago, sought help through her primary care provider, the local clinic in Piteå where she lives.

After trying all sorts of pain relief to no avail, her doctor referred her to the pain rehabilitation unit at Sunderby Hospital.

Holmgren then waited to be called for an appointment but instead received a letter from her doctor telling her she had been turned down for treatment at the rehabilitation unit. The reason – she was too old.

The rehabilitation unit at Sunderby Hospital is specialised to help chronic pain sufferers overcome their disabilities.

The staff work in specialised teams and the treatment is aimed at patients aged between 18 and 65 – people of a “professional” age.

“It makes me feel like if I am too old to work then I am not allowed help to cope with my pain,” Holmgren said.

Holmgren’s daughter, 37-year-old Linda, broke her leg earlier in the year and has since experienced the same chronic pain as her mother.

But Linda received treatment within a few weeks.

“Why can’t my mother get the same help? IS life really meant to be over after 65? I only wish I could give my mother my treatment instead,” Linda Holmgren told daily Aftonbladet.

However, at the hospital they say that it isn’t that uncommon for specialised units to have age restrictions.

The problem is rather that the county’s geriatric care units, which is where Holmgren should be referred to due to her age, don’t have the resources in place to deal with these cases.

“But it has been decided at the hospital that we will train a team to be able to treat older patients and so we are going to be able to provide help for them in the future,” Karin Hellsten, senior clinic administrator for the pain rehabilitation unit, told The Local.

The decision has been made but how long the recruitment and training period will take, Hellsten couldn’t say. In the mean time the local clinics will have to refer elderly patients with chronic pain to Umeå, were there is specialist help to get even for older patients.

But according to Gullan Holmgren, the trip of 200 kilometres from Piteå to Umeå would be too much for her on a regular basis. She is pleased that the hospital will be able to provide help for chronic pain sufferers in the future.

“But it might take some time before they have it up and running, and what do people like myself do in the mean time?,” she said to The Local.

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