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.