HomeBlogStaying at home after the coronavirus: A right also for people living in nursing homes

Staying at home after the coronavirus: A right also for people living in nursing homes

We live in uncertain times in the area of ageing. In this pandemic that is invading us, older people have taken on a special role, especially those living in residential centres. And not because of good news. Unbearable numbers of people who have died in residential homes are adding up day by day in countless cities and towns around the world.

Although it is still too early to find explanations for this situation which is causing us concern and anxiety as professionals and citizens, some reflections are appropriate to guide us so that this never happens again.

People do not want to live in the residences, at least in the ones they imagine when they are asked where they want to live when they cannot do so independently. It is the last resort when it is no longer possible to be and live at home. Ironically, just these days, staying at home has become a kind of life insurance, especially for people with the most fragile health.

And what do we do with the residences? The answer is not simple but complex: to turn them into houses, into places to live in, into safe environments, and where the health and happiness of the people who live there are cared for. Environments in which, at least, work is done to generate opportunities to live like at home.

In these days when health is at the centre of our lives, voices are again being heard calling for social and health centres, where the management of disease, not health or good living, is the focus for designing future care environments. This perspective, apart from not being the one desired by the citizens, does not respond to a comprehensive health perspective, nor is it supported by innumerable scientific evidences that underline the importance of the design of buildings, environments and organisation in aspects related to the relational, emotional and also clinical health of elderly people with care needs.

Of particular relevance at this time is evidence showing the importance of single rooms or stable professionals to prevent the spread of infection in environments where frail and elderly people live together. In the same way, it is easy to imagine that living in small cohabitation units, each with a fixed staff, is one more element to take into account when preventing or detecting the presence of infections initially, as well as to contain their spread.

Institutions, entities, researchers and professionals in our country have been advancing for some time now on an itinerary that will make the much-desired "cultural change" in the design of accommodation for people in need of care possible. Accommodation in which the right to housing, to a home, is guaranteed as to any citizen of our country.

Environments in which the design and equipment integrate, in a respectful and rigorous way, the preferences of the people with the satisfaction of their care needs. It cannot be one without the other.

In short, it is a question of "staying at home" after this crisis becoming an option again, including for people living in residential homes.

Recently, and in line with these reflections, a statement has been published calling for a change in the long-term care model at the state level. This paper was written by a large group of experts and representatives of the associative world in the fields of ageing and disability. We invite you to read it and, if you consider it appropriate, to join this movement for the good care of the people who live in these places and the professionals who accompany them.

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