G.The elderly around the age of 80 are the most fragile segment of the population, particularly in summer. According to a study conducted by Community of Sant’Egidio, heat waves in places where no programs have been activated against the social isolation of the elderly andabandonment they increase the mortality risk of the elderly by 50%. The experts of the SIGG, Italian Society of Gerontology and Geriatricsappeal to citizens, institutions and scientific societies: “Networking to protect the most vulnerable but also those who assist them”.
Elderly: because at least 1 in 10 is a victim of abuse
According to the study, at least one in ten elderly people are victims of a form of abuse which, in the most of the casesit just happens within the home to cause of family members and caregivers. This is why the geriatricians of the SIGG recommend that the institutions organize support and practical aid initiatives especially for the summer months, not only aimed at the elderly, but also at those who provide them with assistance. To limit cases of violence or negligence as much as possible.
There are 7 million caregivers in Italy
Today in Italy the people who provide assistance to the elderly are over 7 million and for the 30% is a heavy commitment which weighs like a real second jobwith more than 14 hours a week dedicated to the care of one’s family.
Those who have the economic means go to the private sector, with an expense that mostly falls directly on families and that in 2021 reached over 136 billion, equal to 7.8% of GDP, with a average annual expenditure of more than 10 thousand euros for 17% of households.
Heat and neglect double the mortality of the elderly: the study
“During the summer months everything becomes exponentially complicated and the elderly are even more fragile because killer heat and social isolation lead to a 50% increase in the risk of mortality”, declares Francesco Landi, president of SIGG.
The study referred to by the Community of Sant’Egidio was carried out in collaboration with theUniversity of Tor Vergata (The Effectiveness of Intervening on Social Isolation to Reduce Mortality during Heat Waves in Aged Population) and published onInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The data show the excess mortality from heat waves among the over-80s in areas of the capital where programs against the social isolation of the elderly have not been activated, comparing them with the mortality of areas where such programs have been implemented.
Heat is a great risk for the elderly: here’s why
“Like every year, even before the previous years, with the arrival of tropical temperatures the most difficult season begins for elderly and fragile citizens, the one in which the climatic conditions represent a serious danger to health and life”, explains Francesco Landi. «The appeal is that of do not abandon the elderly to themselves, but each do their part through a social safety net also for those who assist them “.
Care for the elderly, stress and the “relational short circuit”
“The assistance of an elderly person, especially with cognitive deterioration, engages the family both on a practical-organizational and emotional level, often leading to a real “Relational short circuit”which affects the life of the elderly with abusive behavior of the caregiver who perceives the care burden as a complex and particularly burdensome commitment, which often determines dysfunctional attitudes. It is precisely the stress deriving from the care burden that causes one reduction in the quality of care and, in the worst case, situations of abuse that explode with extreme heat to the point of abandonment. All this requires an urgent reflection on the welfare system and on the actual adequacy to the needs of the elderly and their caregivers ”, recommends Landi.
Violence and neglect can be avoided
“Unfortunately, violence against the elderly is often the result of complex and delicate situations”, explains Anna Castaldo, professor of the degree course in Nursing of the University of Milan – Don Gnocchi Foundation Section – and coordinator of the SIGG working group on elder abuse.
“There cohabitationL’daily and continuous assistance without stopping by caregivers, theabsence or scarcity of assistance and social and health supportare factors that, added to the potential individual caregivers, can lead to the nth degree risk of abuse.
From the data of some recent studies, conducted in various countries, at least one third of the caregivers who attend an elderly person at home engage in abusive actions of different nature, physical, psychological, financial up to abandonment. The caregiver’s care load – Castaldo warns – is therefore an alarm signal that should not be underestimated, as it represents a risk factor of abuse towards the assisted person.
Prevention of maltreatment and initiatives for the elderly and caregivers
To prevent these situations, it is necessary to take care of both the elderly person and the caregiver, through social support and assistance interventions such as stress management programs, psychological support And training of caregivers And relief hospitalizations, which give the assisted person the opportunity to have close to their caregiver and to the latter to have their own spaces, also to recover physical and emotional energies. The prevention of maltreatment concerns everyone, without exception, but it is necessary to change
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