Caritas Coimbra organizes co-creation sessions with the National Association of Informal Caregivers

Active, autonomous and healthy ageing is one of the main challenges arising from Europe’s demographic change, so Caritas Coimbra is currently participating in the European project VALUECARE – “Value-Based Methodology for Integrated Care supported by ICT” (2019-2023).

This project aims to offer a digital solution to support integrated care services (both health and social) provided to vulnerable older people living with frailty and in social isolation. This solution will be tested through 7 large-scale pilots in Europe (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, Croatia, The Netherlands, Ireland) which will begin in 2021. Caritas Coimbra is responsible for the implementation of the Portuguese pilot.  The objectives of this study are not only to improve the quality of life of these people but also to foster and support the formal and informal care tasks provided by professionals and the family members who accompany them.

Among other restrictions, the Covid-19 pandemic imposed a greater need for physical distancing, hampering the hard work of thousands of informal caregivers, who work daily to fulfil their duty of care. In this sense, the pandemic context also aggravated the risk of social isolation of older adults targeted by this care, especially in cases of scarce family and/or social support. Therefore, the Portuguese pilot of the project VALUECARE proposed to adapt its objectives to the Covid-19 climate, aiming to contribute in a useful, innovative and effective way, to improve the capacity of monitoring these people, both in terms of health care, as well as the social support provided by public and private services.

Two co-creation sessions took place on February 3 and 4 with 10 members of the National Association of Informal Caregivers (Associação Nacional de Cuidadores Informais), to listen to the needs and preferences of informal caregivers. The president of the association, Maria dos Anjos Catapirra, also took part in these sessions where caregivers shared their experience of care for older people with different levels of autonomy/dependency. These opinions were collected to ensure that future results of the project correspond to the real needs of the users. This way, the final product will bring added value to increase their satisfaction and well-being and also reduce their caregiver burden.

The results of this session will feed the technological solution being developed, adjusting it to the real needs of informal caregivers, to whom this initiative intended to give a voice.