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Archive for 17 febrero 2021

“Supportive policies such as respite care or training and counselling may […] be needed in order to sustain informal care as an important resource of our health care systems.” The quote comes from Ellen Verbakel et al in their paper on informal care in Europe[i]. But is it just “respite care or training and counselling” what is needed? The paper indicates that, on average, one in every three people in Europe are informal care givers. What is more, one in every six of those care givers is 65 or older. In a back of the envelope calculation, 22 million Europeans are informal care givers and over 65. I do not think that respite, training and counselling is enough.

In Europe, when reaching 65, most of the population looks forward to a nice peaceful retirement but instead, 22 million face a continuation of their dedication to somebody else with bad heath or ageing deterioration. This happens at a time when the carer is going through ageing himself. We need to manage the situation from a holistic point of view. The interrelation between carer and cared takes place in a particular environment: the home. Even if some aspects are outside of the participants’ control, such as the neighborhood, some others are within their reach. I am referring mostly to those aspects of the household that can make life easier and safer for both carer and cared. Aspects that are not only geared towards the comfort of the cared, but also to the comfort of the carer.

Ergonomics was born in the workplace. Its aim is to design the workplace taking into consideration the characteristics and limitations of the worker. The result is that, by reducing risk factors, the worker improves his performance. The workplace of the carer is the home. By introducing ergonomic design into the home, we can create a safer place for both carer and cared and a more efficient care process. And last, but by no means least, a more enjoyable life for the carer.


[i] Ellen Verbakel, Stian Tamlagsrønning, Lizzy Winstone, Erlend L. Fjær, Terje A. Eikemo, Informal care in Europe: findings from the European Social Survey (2014) special module on the social determinants of health, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 27, Issue suppl_1, February 2017, Pages 90–95, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckw229

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The idea comes from a podcast by The Economist, “The New Old”, in which Andrew Scott from the London Business School discusses the importance of acting rather than reacting.

The point is that there are millions of ideas developed for old people. Few have moved from the drawing board into everyday life. This lack of adoption of new ideas seems to stem from the fact that it is too late for old people to adapt to new inventions and/or methods. And also, it is too late once morbidity has already developed.

As the title clearly expresses, what we should aim for is helping people to develop healthy habits that will make ageing a lot more bearable and enjoyable.

Prevention has traditionally been the black sheep of the socio-health sector. There is a lot of talk about it and very little action. Dare to type “self-help” in Google or in Amazon, and the number of entries is in the range of the thousands. But still, there is no action from the public socio-health system.

It is usually the case in organizations that they tend to put out fires, while forgetting the most vital step:  preventing the fire. Acknowledging that fact, it is no consolation to see that the socio-health sector acts in the same manner: attending those already sick and forgetting about preventing sickness.

So the trend continues, and what the formal public sector does not provide, falls into the hands of the private sector: filling the gap started years ago with the self-help books, and which today has moved from books to apps and ICT tools of all kinds.

Of course, I am not against the private sector coming to the rescue; on the contrary. What I would very much like is for the public socio-health sector to integrate into their system those apps and other prevention tools that would, in the long run, ameliorate pressure on the socio-health system. In short: to integrate the concept of helping people to age better.

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