Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program

by Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo
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Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program
Serving 2,600 elderly in our In-Home Care Program

This was a planned walk before the social outbreak of 2019. Then came the pandemic and finally it could be realized last October 22, on a sunny and hot day. Ten elderly people from Hogar de Cristo's Home Care Program for the Elderly (PADAM) in Estación Central enjoyed as never before the visit to San Cristóbal Hill, where many of them had never been.

Maria (70) was one of the 10 elderly people from PADAM who enjoyed an unforgettable day trip to Cerro San Cristobal on October 22.

"In the 40 years I've been here in Santiago, I've never been here before," she says, excited, after getting on the funicular and cable car for the first time to appreciate from above a city she hardly knows. Attending to her dependent oxygen husband doesn't allow her to afford this luxury.

"I go out twice a week to sell clothes and cachureos at the fair, on Thursdays and Sundays. Between my husband and me, we earn 270,000 pesos a month with our pensions, so I can't even joke about this kind of trip," she says.

That is why, when she heard about Hogar de Cristo's PADAM, she did not hesitate to enroll. "They have helped me a lot, not only with material things, but also with activities like this. I worked for twelve years in a cleaning and landscaping company in gardens and green areas and I had never been to San Cristobal Hill," she adds, happy.

With her inseparable friend with whom she always goes to the fair to sell, María (72), they took pictures until the space available on their cell phones collapsed.

Her friend lives alone since her husband died five years ago.  Four years ago she was diagnosed and treated for gastric cancer, so her diet is very limited. But she takes the courage to go out for walks. Her pension is almost 194,000 pesos, to which she adds what she manages to sell with her friend and neighbor at the fair.

"Because of my illness I have to buy medicines which a lot. In addition, I have to use a thyroid remedy. With Maria at the fair sometimes we do well, other times we don't sell anything. The clothes are given to us at the Isabel de Hungría Church and the ones that fit me well, I keep for myself because I have lost a lot of weight", she says.

The head of PADAM, Viviana, says that this trip was postponed first because of the social outbreak and then because of the pandemic:

"We wanted to do it before, because they spent a long time confined to their homes, which brought consequences in both their physical and mental health. The idea was to get them out of their routine, to see another landscape, because we usually do things at PADAM itself. I think they had a wonderful time and, in addition to my team, I thank the volunteers who came to accompany us, because as they are older adults they require a lot of support".

Hogar de Cristo's Information Technology area helped them with the purchase of tickets, others donated sandwiches. "I think we achieved the goal, because they shared with their peers and saw new things. Some had not been here in decades and had no idea of the large number of buildings constructed, they saw another Santiago," says Viviana.

"What struck me the most was that only one of the seniors had told us he wanted to ride the cable car, and now that we were here, nine of the ten wanted to get on. It was a unique experience for them, and I think they will never forget it.

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Meet María José and Jessica, Hogar de Cristo workers in the PADAM program: "We work to integrate the elderly".

The first is a social worker and head of the PADAM of Pichilemu that serves 30 elderly people, many isolated in the rurality of the commune Cardenal Caro, O'Higgins region. The second, a social technician, joined the work in 2017, encouraged by her mother, who is still a Padam volunteer. Feminine strength at the service of making visible those who no one sees: those elderly peasants who often do not read or write and are marginalized.

"Working with older adults is a constant challenge; they have a very different way of life from ours. You have to know their needs, their joys, connect with their stories to be able to help them in the best way possible. In general, they are very distrustful, but when they manage to bond with us, with Hogar de Cristo, we become a fundamental part of their lives," says María José Guevara (40), head of Hogar de Cristo's Padam in Pichilemu.

"I love what we do, I feel it is a challenge that in pandemic has been very demanding, but the joy they transmit, the connection we have with them is fantastic. Today, in Chile, the elderly are a bit abandoned, but Hogar de Cristo is giving them the space they need, making them visible in the community,"

For those who live in more remote rural areas, the work carried out by this team is more than indispensable. They visit them at least once a month and bring them a box with merchandise and diapers for adults, so they are often transported by volunteers, like Ariel, in his 4×4 truck or by the couple formed by Jaime and Rosita, who were there before María José came to live in Pichilemu and were members of the foundation's fundraising team. Also supporting them as volunteers are retired teachers Elena and Clemencia and even Jessica's mother, Elba, a retired paramedic technician from the Pichilemu hospital. It is a diverse and multigenerational group, although older people dominate.

Among the adults they have served, many cannot read or write, have never celebrated a birthday in their lives and are unaware of the social benefits to which they are entitled.

"It is a challenge that we have as a work team, to connect them with the networks, with the social service and improve their quality of life with the tools we have: volunteers, schools and companies that at some point have connected with the history of Padam de Pichilemu. In this way we are able to fulfill the mission that Father Hurtado left us and that, in reality every day, is changing in its concrete expressions, but the meaning is the same: to provide effective care, with an impact on the elderly and their families", summarizes María José.

We accompanied them to visit Luis Enrique, whom they met when he was still using an orthopedic cane but is now bedridden, and Nur, a 72-year-old woman who takes care of her husband Mario, also bedridden, as best she can.

-Jessica, what have you learned from them?

-One has such a different life; they have been through so much and, despite the difficulties they have had, they have put strength and determination to fight to survive. They teach me that you learn something new every day.  I learn from each one of the 30 we are in charge of and I want to be like them when I am their age: cheerful, optimistic, fighters. For me, this task is enriching. One has a better quality of life than the one they had and, for that reason, I hope that tomorrow I will not be a complicated person, that I will be open-minded, that I will not be left behind, because sometimes technological progress generates that in the elderly. I like to visit them and call them, I hope this program never ends.

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Participants of the Bulnes San Carlos Home Care Program (PADAM) in the Ñuble region enjoyed a day outdoors on a plot of land in Chillán. Among them were José and Rosa, married for 52 years, who kissed each other under a flower arrangement and sent advice on how to make their love last.

In the original cultures, older people are valued, they are taken into account and their opinion is considered. Unfortunately, this is not the case in modern societies, where they are relegated to the background and made invisible. That is why the Home Care Programs for the Elderly that Hogar de Cristo (PADAM) has throughout the country are so important, where they are visited and accompanied in their needs, which are many since they belong to the most vulnerable segment.

José Acuña and Rosa Sepúlveda have been married for 52 years and are participants of Hogar de Cristo's Bulnes San Carlos Elderly Home Care Program (PADAM) in the Ñuble region. They, along with 21 other companions and their companions, enjoyed the Day of Love and Friendship in a plot of land in Chillán, invited by the Corporación Salas Adulto Mayor.

There they shared a delicious lunch, laughed, refreshed themselves in the swimming pool, posed for a photograph under a beautiful flower arrangement and kissed as if they were young lovers.

The head of Padam Bulnes San Carlos, Juan Carlos Nova, pointed out that this outing was a great opportunity for them to meet again since the pandemic had prevented them from sharing pleasant moments together as in the past. "They really enjoyed the day, some seniors had practically no support networks," he explained.

José and Rosa agreed to tell their long love story. They met when they were both working in a private residence: she as a home care advisor and he in charge of other heavier housework. They have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"What I like most about my partner is that he is affectionate with me and understands me", says Rosa. José, meanwhile, emphasizes that she is kind, affectionate and "we always reach the same agreements". They also advise young couples to "respect each other" as something fundamental in the relationship.

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Juan Carlos is 72 and sick. Today he is cared for by a niece and receives help from the In-Home Care Program for the Elderly (PADAM) of the Hogar de Cristo, a unique model that, according to a geriatrician expert from the Catholic University, should be replicated in all municipalities of the country to face the coronavirus pandemic.

It is estimated that there are 600,000 vulnerable older adults throughout the country and that 22% of Chilean households have a person of this age group under their care. According to a study by the Universidad del Desarrollo, in Chile there are 470,000 who belong to the fourth age, that is, they are over 80 years old and of them, 16% live in single-person households, absolutely alone.

The recommendation that they do a total quarantine and avoid physical contact with other people is very difficult for those who suffer loneliness, abandonment and great vulnerability, which is the care profile of the PADAM program of the Hogar de Cristo in the Los Lagos region, which watches over for the welfare of 60 older adults: 30 in Puerto Varas and 30 in Puerto Montt.

One of them is Juan Carlos (72), who lives in the modest home of his niece, Malvina (62), located at the top of the hill in the city of Puerto Montt and with an exceptional view of the bay. From there, the once rude fisherman for 40 years remembers his past and fights against a very common disease among those who earn their livelihood at sea: cirrhosis.

We started the morning with a ´harinado´ (mixture of red wine with toasted flour) to face the cold and kill hunger, that was our breakfast. We spent the whole day working and we caught sea bass, eel, hake, ”he proudly recalls.

The son of a fisherman, as a child he went with his father to extract silversides around the drainpipe that was in the city. Also as a child they often gave him wine to "warm the body." He hardly went to school, he can't read or write. For a time he lived in Calbuco, where fishing "was done by rowing, up to 14 hours I was able to row to deliver tons of sardines," he says. He fell in love there, but the woman he lived with left him. He never married or had children.

He had prosperous times in which he had a thirty-foot boat, but he lost it in an accident that nearly cost him his life. “The fisherman lives his day to day full of risks, so we do not have future or long-term projects, nobody knows if he will return from the sea. That time, a wave turned my boat over and by sheer luck I was saved from drowning. We used sacks to take care of our knees, now everyone wears waxed suits, "he adds.



Malvina , his niece and his goddaughter, takes care of him with affection and care. “My uncle worked a lot, he was like my dad, he made sure that we lacked nothing. The least I can do is return his hand, ”explains she, who sells clothes at the fair.

“I always tell him not to open the door for anyone except the people of the Hogar de Cristo who help us with a box of food and with periodic visits, but he is stubborn and sometimes, when I arrive, I find him on the street, one time he almost fell, ”he says, showing the dangerous staircase that leads to his home.

Yerko Villanueva, territorial social head of Hogar de Cristo in the Los Lagos region, has known Juan Carlos  for a long time and affirms that to this day fishermen or people linked to artisanal fishing continue to offer alcohol as a salary. "We are facing a harsh reality that encourages alcoholism from childhood and that must be eradicated, because otherwise, many may end up on the street, increasing the number of vulnerable and poor people."

The importance of PADAM is precisely that it arrives in time to detect cases of extreme abandonment and loneliness in older adults. And that is why the geriatrician of the Faculty of Medicine of the Pontifical Catholic University, Eduardo Valenzuela, recommends copying this model in all the municipalities of the country.

“The Hogar de Cristo Home Care Program for the Elderly is 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 ”, he points out.

Yerko Villanueva fully shares this opinion and to continue supporting people like Juan Carlos , it was determined that while the emergency lasts, the Padam, although they will decrease face-to-face visits, will increase contacts with calls at least twice a day to older adults or their caregivers.

“This is the time when they need containment more than ever. We cannot and we are not going to abandon them ”, he confirms

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There are many older people who, due to the prolonged quarantines due to the pandemic and the prohibition of going outside, have seen their motor and cognitive skills affected. An agreement between the Hogar de Cristo and the Autonomous University of Chile has allowed us to serve hundreds of users of the In-Home Care Program. 

“These classes have helped me a lot because my body and memory have been bad since my stroke,” says Víctor (76), one of the beneficiaries of the agreement between Hogar de Cristo in the Maule region and the Autonomous University of Chile, which has allowed him to receive free sessions from professionals in the Occupational Therapy career.

During each session, Víctor is assisted through a video call by an intern and a career guide teacher, who help him to reinforce the tasks that, due to the stroke suffered a few years ago, are more difficult for him to perform. “They ask me who my sister's husband is, there I answer that he is my brother-in-law. I think these questions are to know how my memory is. They also ask me to see and tell them the time. In today's class we were making a planter with a plastic bottle ”, says Victor from the Maule region, where he divides his days between classes and his love for the land. "I also take advantage of clearing my mind with my garden where I have tomatoes, paprika and green beans for the casserole," he adds. 

All 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. "In the case of Víctor, who does not have a smartphone, our social technician must go to his home on Tuesdays and Thursdays and establish the connection with the students in practice through his telephone," says Rodrigo Lazo, head of the program Home Care (PADAM) of Curepto, and of which Víctor is a user.

Despite this, for Rodrigo this agreement has been tremendously beneficial for those older adults who, due to the pandemic, have suspended their outings and have seen their cognitive and motor skills affected. "We are extremely happy with this initiative and this work in conjunction with the Autonomous University of Chile that has allowed us to generate activities so that the elderly can function without problems in their daily environment."

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Organization Information

Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo

Location: Santiago - Chile
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hdecristo
Project Leader:
Daniela Tosti-Croce
Santiago, Chile
$6,031 raised of $10,000 goal
21 donations
$3,969 to go
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