Exchanging practical research experiences – Center for Scientific Communication

Exchanging practical research experiences in the field of comprehensive care for the elderly

Published: November 27, 2023

Chilean and Spanish initiatives linking students to older people were presented at the Research Conference: Older People with Multiple Chronic Diseases, held in Santiago on Monday 20 November as part of the international dissemination of the VISITAME project of the University of Almería.

The World Health Organization recommends home visits for older people because they promote independence and independence and improve quality of life, especially in those with multiple chronic diseases, but as José Manuel Hernández Padilla, a senior professor at the University of Almería, said, “They are very expensive.” . It is very difficult for the Public Health Service to maintain, and even if it has good results, it cannot be worked on individually.

The Spanish researcher says that Chile and Spain face a similar challenge with regard to demographic increase, meaning that “the population is aging very quickly and the health systems are unable to cover the needs resulting from the aging of the population.”

He adds: “In Spain, according to the study, between 90 and 97% of people over the age of 65 suffer from multiple chronic diseases, which are associated with negative outcomes in all areas of life: in physical and psychological health; Social and family life; At the level of independence with low quality of life.

As is the case in Latin America, there are not enough resources to address the huge increase in the number of elderly people, so “we have to look for other tools.” This is how the idea arose of connecting nursing students at the University of Almería who have already passed a large part of the core subjects: anatomy, physiology, pathophysiological processes, community nursing, in short “they have a good body of clinical knowledge, so we believe they can already work directly with Older people,” the researcher confirms.

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VISITAME program: a successful Spanish experience

As part of the educational activities and assessments, nursing students of the University of Almería carry out a weekly visiting programme. In total, there are 12 visits – three for each of the four themes developed – with a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of one hour, depending on the goal of the visit: promoting self-care; Healthy lifestyle habits; physical activity and medication management; In addition to navigating the system, there is an intervention to orient older people in the Spanish public health system, about what resources are close to them or what are local resources.

“The results have been amazing on all levels. It is a self-sustaining intervention because the students do it as part of their training program and the seniors do not pay anything. “More than 120 students are currently visiting, and since we started the pilot study, about 500 seniors have participated in the program,” says José Manuel Hernandez Padilla.

From a quantitative point of view, the research group already has five scientific publications in high-impact journals, but what is most important for the researchers is the results from a qualitative point of view. “The visits improved quality of life immediately and after six months, in the variables of self-care, perceived social support, nutritional status, adherence to a balanced Mediterranean diet, and treatment management, that is, they essentially improved dignity and independence in decision-making,” they point out.

But the indicators did not only improve for the elderly, but were a real revolution for the young. “Students who came with no motivation to work with older people saw it as a great area to specialize in, with a lot of professional independence. “They can have a big impact,” continues the researcher from the University of Almeria.

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The idea of ​​introducing this experience in the country goes hand in hand with creating potential synergies with national researchers, especially from the Autonomous University of Chile, which will allow joint projects to be presented in the future. In this sense, the research team on Quality of Life, Family and Aging, directed by Carina Gatica Chandia, Director of the Social Work Degree at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Autonomous University of Chile, has also worked on examples of the link between young people and older people.

Intergenerational dialogues: confronting ageism

“Social work is used to investigate and intervene. “We cannot therefore distance ourselves from this double struggle that we have as a profession,” the researcher emphasizes, and that is why the Chilean initiatives presented at the research conferences are linked to the intergenerational meetings developed between seniors and students of the profession that allowed them to identify relevant topics.

One of them is the feminization of care, “generally women take care, with a scarce support network, and the social construction of what is understood as someone who cares makes the phenomenon of aging and aging as a stage more complex,” explains Karina. Gatika. Added to this is the phenomenon of age discrimination or age-related prejudices, in addition to the disappearance of life plans after retirement.

Unlike Spain, the phenomenon of aging in Latin America is recent. The literature in this regard indicates that the process that Europe has witnessed in 100 years, “we are witnessing in a very short period, of the acceleration of the aging of our population. It is clear that phenomena have occurred, and we as a society are not prepared to be able to respond to them,” the researcher emphasizes.

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Hence the importance of searching for points of convergence that allow synergy and joint presentation of research projects in both Spain and Chile, thus strengthening those important coincidences between lines of research with a human rights perspective on the elderly population.

Both groups therefore agree on the need for a holistic view of care, with participatory action research methodologies that allow for the co-creation of intervention programs for both caregivers and older people.

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