Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users

by Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users
Emergency Fund COVID-19 for our elderly users

Villla Giacaman del Hogar de Cristo, located in Hualpén, houses 55 elderly neglected, extremely vulnerable and poor, a high-risk population to which the team led by Benito Montecino (31), its director, is willing to defennd.  

The residence works with 49 technicians and professionals who serve 32 men and 23 women. There were 55 human beings at imminent risk if the coronavirus virus entered the residence, which was in in strict quarantine for many months. “Our users are almost all abandoned, many lived 10, 20, 30, 40 years on the streets, had problematic alcohol and / or drug use, and, due to a heart attack, a fracture, a stroke that disabled them , they got here. They are mostly prostrate, with a great cognitive disconnection, which frees them from environmental disturbances, although there are some who do understand what is happening and are scared”explains Benito.

At the peak of the pandemic, when work did not cease, when teams are dwindled and stressed, he says that energies, motivations and emotions have changed.

Hogar de Cristo has instructed all residential programs so that its workers who have chronic diseases do not attend work due to the risk of contagion by coronavirus, which is exacerbated in them. The instruction is telecommuting. The universities that supported them with students in practice have stopped doing it for safety. That has forced the team to reorganize the shift systems; they were left with two fewer caregivers during the day and one less at night, and for all - technicians and professionals - to be trained in all direct treatment tasks, from moving the elderly to feeding them.

“We are going through different states of mind. Motivated, committed, but afraid, because this is unprecedented. Never seen. Our central commitment is to avoid the contagion of our residents, workers and volunteers, who are mostly older adults, who have had to stay at home. We are connected with the Seremías de Salud, de Desarrollo Social, with the Talcahuano Health Service and with the Talcahuano Sur Family Health Center, who daily help us to care for our residents. Together, we are taking all protection measures with a population that is the highest risk ”, confesses the always fireproof Benito, whom the sanitary cordon established in San Pedro de la Paz, where he lives, some days has made it difficult for him to arrive to Hualpén.

Once at the residence, all workers must take their temperature, then undergo a clinical hand wash and a complete change of clothes into the sanitized uniform. It was only there that they began to work, maintaining social distance between them and wearing masks and gloves, which caused a crisis in all the country's programs, given the shortage of these basic supplies. This has resulted in a desperate call from the health authorities of the national social director of Hogar de Cristo, Paulo Egenau: “Our workers are as relevant as any health worker, public or private. They fulfill the same functions, attend and work with vulnerable and sick people, and they need to protect themselves so as not to become vectors of contagion within our programs ”.

Precisely to avoid this risk, Benito explains that they were "avoiding as much as possible referrals to emergency services and health services for our residents, because the base hospital that corresponds to us, has collapsed its emergency system, Except in the case of life risk.” 

Faced with this reality, what they were doing is resorting to telemedicine in the face of any problem or alteration in the health status of the residents. Thus, the daily life of Villa Giacaman passed between the sending of videos, audios and photos of the staff with the doctors assigned to this service by the health authorities. "We hear conversations about symptoms and dialogues with the geriatricians who have appointed us for the virtual care of our foster care." And also contacts via Skype or WhatsApp of those who are more connected with reality with their relatives or significant figures, given that visits were prohibited by provision of the health authorities more than a week ago. There it is the workers who help the older adults with the technology so that the conversations can take place. "Dialogues that make them happy, gratifying and make their day to day more satisfying," notes the social worker.

At lunchtime, news channels were tuned in, but only at that time. “Those who understand what is happening were being terrified that they are the population most at risk, so we decided to dose that content to them. The rest of the time, entertaining films and programs are shown, happy, which lower our stress level. Although we no longer have volunteers, we have still done activities like joke contests and dance to keep morale up. And so we are overcoming the difficulties ”, says Benito.

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We hope this message finds you well and that you are handling these uncertain times as  good as possible.

From Hogar de Cristo we wanted to let you know our current situation of our organization in Chile and how we have been carrying out our project focused on Elderly and COVID-19.  

During all these months of anguish, older adults are on the list of those who have had the worst time. Those who should be at the center, protected by a society that values them rather than being isolated, mired in hopelessness and depression.

Although in Chile mortality among the elderly has not reached the levels of other countries, almost 85% of those killed by COVID-19 are over 60 years old. Vulnerability in older people is not only a direct result of age, but it is explained by the accumulation of biological, social and economic factors during their lives. The deterioration in functioning and capacities is not always the same, but without a doubt the conditions of deterioration are accentuated in those most vulnerable.

Long quarantines have wreaked havoc on this population. Not only in patients with Alzheimer's type dementias, who have worsened between 20 to 30% psychiatric symptoms associated with this ailment, such as apathy, depression and anxiety, but in all those who have some cognitive impairment. Furthermore, 25% of older adults in Chile have some symptoms of depression, which is not diagnosed in more than half of the cases and, therefore, is not treated. Imagining what happens to them when they are locked up, alone, with calls that do not even come close to hugs, is tremendous. Physically, being reduced inside a house impacts on the loss of muscle mass, favoring falls and the consequent fractures.

In the face of this worrying picture, Hogar de Cristo has acted, keeping most of its centers open and adapting its activity to this new reality. As of March 2020, all Hogar de Cristo hostels went into quarantine and operated 24 × 7 for those who agreed to stay in them. This measure lasted until September, a month in which, according to the measures of the government's Step by Step Plan, it became more flexible in the different regions.

Moreover, we have started an agreement with the Autonomous University of Chile that has allowed us to serve dozens of users of the In-Home Care Program, receiving free sessions from professionals from the Occupational Therapy career. During each session, older adults are assisted through a video call by an intern and a career guide teacher, who help them to reinforce the tasks that are most difficult for them to perform. The sessions are carried out through cell phone video calls, which has meant a challenge for those older adults who do not have the necessary technology to carry them out. Given this, our social technicians must go to their homes and establish the connection with the students in practice through their phones.

In addition, thanks to new agreements, we have been able to provide wheelchairs, walking sticks  and other technical aids to solve their physical disability problems, improving the quality of life of older adults considerably.

Finally, this year began with great hope thanks to the start of the vaccination against COVID-19 in our centers. to this date, the great majority of Elderly and our staff have been vaccinated. 

We have been able to achieve this transformation because of your support. We believe that older people are subjects of rights, not of charity, protection or paternalistic or falsely tender treatment, which is nothing other than ageism: that is, contempt for the elderly. Your contribution has meant being able to continue providing support to hundreds of older people throughout the country. We really thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help that is giving hope and quality of life to many elderlies.

 

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It has been a year that no one will easily forget. In March when the pandemic began we all thought that the emergency would last a couple of months but we never imagined that it would last the whole year.

However, Hogar de Cristo has adapted quickly, providing solutions to the population we serve. To reverse the bad, good, innovative projects are needed, focused on the most vulnerable and excluded, that excite and awaken the solidarity of all. 

PADAM stands for Program of Home Care for the Elderly and is a revolutionary tool of inclusion and social support for the elderly. Juan Cristóbal Romero, Executive Director of Hogar de Cristo, explains: "PADAM costs 80 thousand pesos a month against the million pesos that it means to have an older adult in a residence." With this assistance at home, deterioration is slowed and the autonomy of the elderly is maintained. And they are enriched services that are not limited only to baskets of products or food, but also very broad supports –from accompanying them to their medical visits to accompanying them in an outdoor activity–, both for them and for their caregivers. 

Eduardo Valenzuela, doctor from the Geriatrics and Gerontology program at the Catholic University School of Medicine, said at the beginning of the pandemic that the best way to protect older adults would be to “copy the model that Hogar de Cristo has used for decades to identify and link older adults with local networks, read PADAM, one of the most successful initiatives that the foundation has had in recent decades. Precisely because of this ability to identify the most fragile people and link them with health care social networks and protect them. Many of them would have died alone in their homes if this program did not exist”. And the same applies to the PAFAM, which are social support programs aimed at families that have one or more members with mental disabilities. Both the PADAM and the PAFAM require significant additional financial support to that provided by the State, therefore, we invite you to collaborate with the elderly and with those with intellectual or mental disabilities.

“Despite the tremendous difficulties we have suffered this year, learning and a job well done have strengthened. Now what we need is the usual: appeal to the conscience of people, as our founder always did and ask them to join," sums up Juan Cristóbal Romero. And paraphrasing one of his well-known reflections, he says: “´We need you… We don't force you, but we need you to carry out our plans. If you don't come, a work will remain undone, that you, only you, can do. Nobody can take this work, because each one of you has his share of good to do in it, 'asked Alberto Hurtado. And now, in the midst of an unparalleled health, social and economic crisis, his call makes more sense than ever. 

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In these times of COVID-19 emergency, we are facing unprecedented challenges in our daily activities. However, we continue supporting vulnerable population through our programs. 

Regarding people living on the streets, we have launched the “Street Protect Covid-19 Route” a specific program to monitor this population, control their temperature, share this information with the Ministry of Health and to provide them with sanitary kits and food.The number of elderlies living on the street have increased through the pandemic and the situation is getting worse due to winter temperatures. 

As to our elderly residences, they continue being open and we are providing them with all necessary care. Resources have being used to buy masks, bottles of alcohol gel, digital thermometers, a specially prepared feeding pouch, isolation suits, concentrators. oxygen kits and also to maintain the daily expenses of our programs. 

In relation to our workers, more than 200 workers at the Hogar de Cristo have resorted to the psychosocial support offered by the foundation. A necessary resource in these times of pandemic where the threat of contagion and death becomes latent. Maintaining healthy mental health is vital in order to get through these days and to help others.

Respecting our educational centers, they have closed following government measures but we have continued with our classes, workshops and support through distance education.

Without a doubt, having to work remotely has been a complex issue for many of us, especially for those who directly care for children and teenagers. Despite this situation, the professionals of our different programs and schools have managed to continue providing socio-educational and/or pedagogical support to the beneficiaries in this context of a pandemic.

Regarding new students, despite this emergency situation, we made the decision to start diverse projects online to maintain permanent contact with them in order to generate links and to develop a pedagogical and psychosocial diagnostic process. In this period of uncertainty, it is key to continue providing our services and to be as close as possible with our students in order to prevent drop outs. 

For example, in one of our projects for young people who have been out of the school system, Jara, a Technical Advisor in the Advisory area, points out that "it becomes clear how important it is to bond with young people and to introduce them to the people who are entering their lives, it is a fundamental step in the process". As a result of this, during the second week with suspension of classes, a team made up of two teachers, a social worker and the coordinator of the program decided to present themselves by video to the young people so that they could put a face and voice to the people who were working with them.

We are committed to assistance of vulnerable Chilean youth and elderlies and we will continue fighting so that no one is left behind. Your help has been essential to achieve this goal.

 

Thank you!

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Organization Information

Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo

Location: Santiago - Chile
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hdecristo
Project Leader:
Daniela Tosti-Croce
Santiago, Chile

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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