• The carers of people with dementia are suffering more anxiety and sadness than before the pandemic.
  • Care homes and day centers should be protected, especially in the early stages of an outbreak.
  • An artificial intelligence software increases by 25% the cognitive and physical well-being of the elderly.
  • A virtual carer, with voice technology was highly appreciated among the people who suffered Covid-19.
  • People with illnesses are more unprotected when they belong to a low socio-economic level.
  • The selected projects have been carried out by researchers and health professionals from Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Cantabria.

Nearly half of Spanish people caring for elderly people with dementia admit there has been a faster deterioration of the cognitive (48%) and functional (49%) abilities of their relatives than before the pandemic. Furthermore, they point out that they are also sadder (34%), more nervous (31%) and more aggressive (15%), and admit that they (the care givers) are more concerned about the future of the people they care for (64%), and feel more anxious (57%) and have more conflicts with family members (15%).

These are the main conclusions of a report carried out between June and October by a total of 13 researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Rey Juan Carlos (Madrid) and the Hospital Universitario Gregorio Marañón, to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people with dementia and their carers. The research, financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, is one of the seven projects selected by Fundación MAPFRE within the framework of the first Academic Seminar 2020 on Ageing and Covid-19, organized jointly with the Deusto Business School, the objective of which is to recognize initiatives aimed at seeking  solutions to some of the challenges that have appeared in the context of the health crisis, especially in the field of health, innovation and entrepreneurship, among others.

Virtual caregivers

Virtual caregivers is another project that has been recognized. It involves artificial intelligence software that has been developed by health professionals from the Hospital Universitario La Princesa (Madrid) and the company Tucuvi Care, with the aim of monitoring people who have been discharged from hospital after being admitted for Covid-19, with phone calls made by a virtual caregiver. So far, the results have been very positive.The authors of the project have evaluated the usefulness and acceptance of the virtual caregiver and have concluded that this virtual assistant, with voice technology and artificial intelligence, is perceived by patients with a high score of 4 out of 5, and that the software identified that only 15% of the calls made required subsequent nursing action, thus helping professionals to optimize their time.

On the same topic, the project carried out by Ubikare has also been acknowledged. Artificial intelligence software identifies the priority needs of 35% of the population over the age of 65, and detects if any changes are needed through sessions of physical, cognitive and community stimulation, carried out by a multidisciplinary group with monthly follow-ups. The entity, which offers home care and health services for the elderly in the Basque Country,  has digitized the program over the last few months, with videos, personalized exercises and weekly calls to the participants, gaining 100% of their loyalty. It has also managed to increase by 25% the cognitive and physical well-being of the elderly it has assisted over the last two years.

Intelligent pill box

Managing medication among older people is a small, hidden pandemic. This is the opinion of the professionals at Inbizi Healthcare, created by three professionals with experience in the health sector in the Basque Country, who emphasize that 50% of the people undergoing treatment do not follow it correctly, leading to the premature death of 200,000 people in Europe each year, according to WHO data. Together they have created Noa, an intelligent pill box connected to the Internet, the purpose of which is to prevent patients from making mistakes with their doses and it tells them if they are correctly following the treatment. The results of this automatic medicine manager, which is not yet on the market, improves patients’ health and autonomy.

35 candidates

The scientific committee, made up of representatives from Fundación MAPFRE, Deusto Business School and independent experts, analyzed the 35 projects submitted in this first edition, and chose a total of seven that have been carried out by researchers and healthcare professionals from Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Cantabria. Out of these, they have highlighted initiatives aimed at particularly vulnerable groups and which represent an advance over previous experiences in the field of the ageing economy.The event was attended by Ignacio Baeza, Vice-President of Fundación MAPFRE; Juan Fernández Palacios, Managing Director of Fundación MAPFRE Ageingnomics Research Center; Iñaki Ortega, Managing Director of Deusto Business School; and Adela Cortina, Chairman Emeritus of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Universidad de Valencia, who gave a master class on the ethics of ageing in times of pandemics.

Inequality and tele-assistance

Three researchers from the Universidad Pompeu Fabra and the Universidad de Barcelona, whose project has also been recognized, have developed a method to study the demand for care in areas with a high portion of senior citizens and to find connections with the accumulated incidence of Covid-19 cases. Its objective has been to identify the most disadvantaged areas of Barcelona and reveal the keys to improving the care system. Results of this research indicate that the number of positive cases of the virus until the end of the first wave has a higher correlation to the number of elderly people, than with the fact that they live in nursing homes. It also points out that both residential and day-care facilities must be protected, especially in the early stages of an outbreak, and that home care should be specially designed to isolate the fragile population at home, thus preventing contagion. It also highlights the importance of tele-assistance, that reaches almost 100% of the population at risk and elderly and frail people living alone. Tele-assistance covers the basic needs and support for these citizens and avoids contact with the community outside their homes.

The Universidad de Cantabria has also been recognized for carrying out another research in which three experts in Health Economics from the university confirm that the inequalities in the use of long-term care are worrying. The results, obtained with data from the latest Health, Ageing and Retirement Survey in Europe (SHARE), show that informal services, i.e. those provided by people living at home or from outside the home, are more widespread in households with lower socioeconomic levels, while formal services, those of a professional nature, are more frequent in those with higher levels. The research also stresses that in situations where care needs are equal (similar type of illness or disability), both formal and informal care is more predominant among people with a higher socio-economic level, a fact proving that people with more illnesses are unprotected when they belong to a low socio-economic level.

Transition to retirement

What is the transition to retirement like? Who prepares these people for this new stage of life? These are two of the questions asked by two professionals from Bizipoz, a small social initiative cooperative in the Basque Country, which has drawn up a report to analyze how companies manage

active and healthy ageing, as well as the awareness of the employees before finishing their professional careers. It also analyses how to accompany a professional until retirement. The research, which will be completed in January, advances some conclusions: Employees working in companies with such programs experience greater well-being, have a more positive attitude at work, prove a higher degree of employability and are open to new opportunities to learn and develop. Organizations also perform well in economic and productivity terms and significantly improve the employees’ experience in the last stage of their working lives.