Strength­en­ing per­son-cen­tred care

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE - Natalie Briffa Far­ru­gia

I met Carmel, af­fec­tion­ately known as Nenu, at one of our res­i­dences. He was pa­tiently look­ing at his tablet wait­ing for a Skype call from one of his daugh­ters. He’s the first to ad­mit that get­ting to know how the gad­get works took some time. But at the end of the te­dious process, he could com­mu­ni­cate with his fam­ily ev­ery day at dif­fer­ent hours.

Look­ing at Nenu from an out­sider’s per­spec­tive, one might see an elderly gen­tle­man with quite some time to spare. How­ever, a closer look will re­veal a per­son with a lifetime of ex­pe­ri­ences, and a mix of skill and emo­tions. Re­ally and truly, Nenu rep­re­sents our loved ones, our par­ents, our grand­par­ents.

Dur­ing my years at the helm of CareMalta, I had the op­por­tu­nity to get ac­quainted with per­sons nor­mally re­ferred to as elderly peo­ple. Phys­i­cally speak­ing, this is a cor­rect term. How­ever, to­day I give more value to the “elderly” part. Just like the ac­tual mean­ing of the Mal­tese “Xiħ” to­day, more than ever, I ac­knowl­edge the wealth of knowl­edge and life ex­pe­ri­ences an elderly per­son has to of­fer. Some­times all it takes is one ques­tion to un­cover the youth­ful elderly.

This is why I am more and more de­ter­mined to make sure that all stake­hold­ers re­alise that it’s not just about pro­vid­ing the elderly with a place where to stay, but one where to live life. This is also why we in­vited all stake­hold­ers to a sem­i­nar or­ga­nized by the Caremalta Academy. I feel that chal­leng­ing the in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion mind­set is a must, es­pe­cially in such a small com­mu­nity like ours.

We need to se­ri­ously re­flect on whether cur­rent prac­tices place the human el­e­ment be­fore any­thing else, thus re­spect­ing dig­nity and life it­self.

The sem­i­nar brought to­gether peo­ple who are ac­tive with elderly peo­ple through­out the year. This mix­ture of ex­per­tise al­lowed us to ques­tion the norm, and re­flect on whether we are ac­tu­ally cross­ing the line by let­ting longevity take over qual­ity of life.

This is a not an easy mat­ter to dis­cuss, since it presents a mix be­tween eth­i­cal and emo­tional ar­gu­ments. We all do our best to give our loved ones the best of care, even in mo­ments when we know that life will even­tu­ally, and sadly, end. This hap­pens with no sec­ond thoughts, some­times at the risk of los­ing the pur­pose of life it­self along the way. Thanks to the ex­per­tise of Pro­fes­sor Pierre Mal­lia, we chal­lenged the norm, and our­selves, to think and dis­cuss such mat­ters, which, I have to say, is quite tough, but com­pas­sion­ate at the same time. Older per­sons who were present at the sem­i­nar had all the space to speak out and in­deed pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing per­spec­tive to the whole is­sue.

I feel that we need to re­al­ize that we ac­tu­ally live in a small coun­try. This fact presents us with the lux­ury of think­ing on a com­mu­nity level. Com­mu­nity ser­vices, if they are per­son-cen­tred, make it pos­si­ble for older per­sons to live in their own home for as long as pos­si­ble. Liv­ing within their own com­mu­nity, as op­posed to start­ing off from scratch in a new one, is def­i­nitely a pre­ferred op­tion. How­ever, we need to en­sure that if the time comes for them to make the tran­si­tion from their own home to a res­i­den­tial or nurs­ing home, they should find a place which con­sid­ers their de­sires, val­ues, fam­ily sit­u­a­tions, so­cial cir­cum­stances and life­styles. It’s high time to see older peo­ple as in­di­vid­u­als, that are given the op­por­tu­nity to take part in de­ci­sions about their health and care and hence work to­gether in or­der to de­velop ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tions.

Need­less to say, this re­quires trained pro­fes­sional and fi­nan­cial ac­cess to such ser­vices, per­haps through in­sur­ance cov­ers.

What­ever the case, we are obliged to en­sure that life keeps on be­ing cel­e­brated till the very end. This has to be looked at from a human per­spec­tive rather than an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized one. I firmly be­lieve that our our per­sons have much to of­fer within our com­mu­nity, and that we, as a com­mu­nity, have a duty to make sure that the older peo­ple’s voice is heard so that they are able to main­tain their iden­tity and keep on liv­ing life with dig­nity, re­spect and joy. Need­less to say the re­spect for life goes be­yond what the eyes can see what the ears can hear, and be­yond the chal­lenges that our so­ci­ety faces.

Natalie Briffa Far­ru­gia is the CEO of Caremalta

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