ENNHRI interviewed Tímea Csikós, Legal Advisor at the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in Hungary, to find out more about the different activities of the Office of the Commissioner, and what the situation on the ground is regarding long-term care of older persons in the country.

Timea Czikos

Can you tell us a bit about the Hungarian Ombudsman’s Office and the staff involved in ENNHRI’s Older Persons project? How and why did it get involved in ENNHRI’s Older Persons project?

The Hungarian Commissioner was delighted to be invited to join the pilot group for ENNHRI’s Older Persons project. In 2010, our office carried out thematic work on the dignity in old age - focused on ensuring older persons themselves, their relatives and persons who take care of them would know more on their fundamental rights.

Now, being involved ENNHRI’s Older Persons project, our Office gets the opportunity to share and update all of these experiences from earlier, to get new aspects and examples from the other project members, and to make a valuable contribution on the one hand to the project, on the other hand to our own traditional, regular activity.

Why is the project important to you personally?

We all have/had parents, grandparents, possibly great-grandparents. And in the course of time we all become older persons who need help and special support. So in my mind this Project is about ALL of us – it is about the present of our beloved relatives, and our own future.

How has the pilot work been going for you so far?

We’ve had lots of activity so far! As well as carrying out the monitoring work, we organised a conference and panel discussion regarding the situation of older persons in residential care in Hungary in cooperation with the Methodological Centre of Budapest’s Pesti Road Nursing Home in 2015.

The event reached national and international stakeholders in the field including professional associations and research institutions. We also launched a “Human Rights Campaign” in care homes all over Hungary. In the summer of 2016 we published two colourful, user-friendly booklets in Hungarian - one is a summary of the monitoring report, the other one is a short information note about human rights, ombudsman’s & older persons issues in general.

What are the main human rights issues in/facing the long-term care sector in Hungary?

Hungary has put significant emphasis on the development of long-term care services since 1990, particularly in residential care. Formal home care services - largely privatised - cater for approximately 5% of the 65+ population in Hungary. As such, access to residential care may be relatively straightforward, though the choice of remaining at home may not be possible for many older persons. This highlights the potential for further development of home- and community based services for older persons. Costs of long-term care are generally funded by the state, though local authorities may charge user fees, calculated by official algorithms which take the user’s personal income into account.

As part of the human rights monitoring work, we witnessed residents in some care homes experiencing chronic restraint and deprivation of liberty, caused by extremely low numbers of staff, and a lack of real opportunities of care. Some residents were completely bed bound, not physically but with extremely limited opportunities to exercise, engage in meaningful activities or have their independence and autonomy facilitated. This had an impact on their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

What for you is the most interesting aspect of the Project?

The most interesting thing for me is the opportunity to think together and meet colleagues from all over Europe working on this topic and learning about their solutions. The nicest aspect of the Project is to get so much positive feedback from the stakeholders (older people and care workers), and to see how deeply they care for each other.