Delaying dependency, the great challenge of post COVID care for the elderly

The intensity with which COVID-19 has been primed in the elderly has evidenced the need to “reset” the approach to care for the elderly and to join efforts to delay dependency, the great challenge facing geriatrics of the future. , which Gipuzkoa tries to get ahead of with the Adinberri strategy.

Presented two years ago as one of the flagship projects of the regional government, Adinberri is constituted as a tool to “improve the quality of life of the elderly” through a Foundation in charge of developing the strategy through innovation projects that They are testing in different locations.

One of them is Asage. A nurse and a social worker analyze what daily life is like for people who do not become dependent, but who have a high risk of falls, “accidents” that a third of people over 65 suffer from and that suppose sometimes the step to dependency in a few weeks.

Medical care for the elderly has been “focused” on the disease, but the idea that the objective should be, not only to attend to ailments, but to maintain the functional capacity of people, is increasingly widespread, says the director of Asage , Itziar Vergara, from the Biodonostia research center.

For example, “you cannot demand the same glucose levels from a 50-year-old person as from an 80-year-old because it can lead to dizziness and, with it, the dreaded falls,” he says.

The pandemic has shown the “inequalities” and the “vulnerability” of older people, but also the solidarity of the volunteer networks that have brought them food and has caused many cornflowers to “lose their fear” of technological devices that can be very useful in future care, although robotics can never replace human attention. “If this disease has taught us anything, it is the value of a hug,” says Vergara.

“We live in a moment of confusion and, due to inertia, we will fight to return to what we had before, but there are things that should not return,” says Vergara, who considers this to be a “golden opportunity” to “reset” beliefs and “be imaginative”.

The excessive medicalization in the effort to control risk factors of the elderly has made us forget aspects such as the importance of “functionality” so that they remain autonomous and can live in their homes, he says.

In another of Adinberri’s projects, Etxean Bizi, “comprehensive care” is proposed for people who want to continue living at home. In this case, it is the social worker who leaves her office and goes to the houses to check the situation and articulate all the services, “like a union coordinator”, explains its director, Maider Azurmendi, from the Matia Foundation.

A study carried out by Etxean Bizi with a group of one hundred elderly people who underwent the program for 10 months and another one hundred who did not showed that the income in residences among the latter doubled that of the people who had received the help .

Adinberri will have a physical space in the Reference Center specialized in Comprehensive Care for Aging that will be located in Pasaia and that will include a residence with 120 beds, 21 supervised floors, a day center and offices of the local social services, They will be built around a large plaza open to citizens that connects with the municipality.

The complex will have an “innovation unit” that will be in charge of testing the different projects that have been developed “in the most real environment possible, which is where the users themselves are,” the director of the Adinberri Foundation explained to EFE. , Rakel San Sebastián.

The new residence will be based on a concept “more like home”. Individual rooms, which will have a minimum furniture in which the relatives of the elderly can prepare a coffee when they visit them, and “coexistence units” of about fifteen people attended by an assistant, will be some of its characteristics.

“The current residency scheme was already being questioned, but the health crisis has reinforced the need for a change that fits in with Adinberri’s proposals,” says Reyes San Sebastián.

In any case, the construction of the Pasaia complex will have to wait since it is one of the projects postponed by the Gipuzkoan provincial institution due to the adjustments that the pandemic has imposed.

Among the objectives set by Adinberri there is also the promotion of the so-called “silver economy”, the business opportunities that arise around aging, a task in which it acts as a connecting entity between demand and companies.

The pandemic has made it clear that “when the emergency tightens we are able to diversify,” as has happened with automotive companies that have manufactured respirators, says San Sebastián, who also sees an opportunity for job creation in the “silver economy”.

These are some of the proposals that can be useful after the greatest health crisis of the last century and that open the way to the “care society” that prevails in an increasingly aging population.

By Mercedes Zabaleta


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