Recently, Test Point has carried out an interesting market research on the problems of the third age in the Italian welfare system, not only to try to identify its limitations and lacks but also to try to hypothesize a new organization of services for no longer young and often not self-sufficient people.
The peculiarity of this research is that it was based on in-depth interviews carried out in pairs, that is, simultaneously with the elderly person and the person in charge of assisting them, the so-called “caregiver”. The interviews, in the case of elderly people with reduced mobility, took place at the respondent’s home.
Welfare and third age: new perspectives for old problems
We all know that the average life span has significantly extended, but this lengthening does not automatically correspond to an improvement in terms of health and well-being.
We all sooner or later come to terms, often dramatically, with the need for assistance to elderly people, with various pathologies and with reduced mobility. Let’s add then that very often these elderly people live alone and then it is clear in this context that the problem of care becomes more and more dramatic. From the small needs of the newspaper, to personal hygiene, from shopping to looking after the house, from paying bills at the post office to going to the pharmacy or general practitioner to renew prescriptions, the elderly end up needing constant assistance throughout the day.
The welfare system is often unable to offer adequate support to the elderly who are not self-sufficient, also lacking a national standard of the assistance services offered.
And here the “caregiver” intervenes, often a family member who does it voluntarily and free of charge, but very often also a stranger, who must support the elderly with reduced mobility or not self-sufficient.
As part of a research on the perception of public healthcare system and elderly care services, Testpoint recruited several couples of elderly and caregivers who were interviewed together, in order to collect the two complementary points of view on the same problem.
The objective of the paired interviews is to explore complementary points of view on the same problem: in this case it was a question of understanding the unmet needs of the patients and caregivers who assist them in daily difficulties such as going to a doctor to renew a recipe or for a check-up.
If the needs and requirements of the elderly patient can be quite evident (cleaning, assistance in preparing food, company, etc.), perhaps the needs of the “caregiver” have been less explored so far: the family member who takes care of the not self-sufficient elderly would need to be replaced to have some free time and not to give up their social relationships, to enjoy some holidays, to have some form of insurance for what is a real full-time commitment, but even the “professional” caregiver would need more training, assistance etc. This is what Anna Maria, an 80-year-old from Rome and the caregiver who assists her, Pina, forty-five years old, told us.
In-home paired interview
Anna Maria is 81 years old, has some sight problems but above all has motor difficulties so she does not feel like going out alone, not even for shopping in the shops near her house. Pina has been helping her at home for a few years but now she takes care of her in a more stable and continuous way, accompanying her to do the shopping or to the doctor or pharmacy, or even, simply going with her, when the weather is nice, to make a short walk.
“For me – Anna Maria says – Pina’s presence is indispensable. She comes every morning and does the housework, then she comes with me to do the shopping and when necessary we go to the general practitioner together. She also accompanies me to some specialist visits, or to the pharmacy. She checks my blood pressure and prepares the pills I need to take during the day. But this is not just about this, for me it is important to have someone to chat with or to comment on a television program: the hours spent alone never pass. It would be important for the Public Healthcare System to take more into consideration the problems of the elderly: it is not enough to provide drugs, it would need more continuous and efficient home medical care and also someone who can simply provide company in the afternoon. The night? For the moment I am still able to look after myself, if I don’t have to do it anymore it would be really a problem! Anyway, I liked having the opportunity to talk about us, about old age and our needs “
“I have been helping Mrs. Anna Maria for several years – continues Pina – and I realize that her situation has become increasingly precarious over time: at the beginning, she had an active and autonomous life, but now she needs assistance even in small things for her problems of reduced mobility. I accompany her to the doctor, to the pharmacy, to do the shopping, but it may be important to be able to communicate with the doctor via computer, for example, or to have someone who can keep her company in the afternoon. I too would need to be more followed and supported in this work that becomes more and more responsible every day, I would like the healthcare system to support me with specific training: assistance to the elderly cannot be left to common sense and responsibility of the caregiver. The interview was a really good experience: it’s nice to know that someone is interested in the problems of us caregivers, so far I had the feeling of belonging to a category of invisibles.”
Both spoke very willingly of their problems, unmet needs and lacks of our welfare system for the elderly, also proposing interesting solutions.