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Home Society People in their 20s in action for better care for the elderly: this is the mission of Beejan, Emma and Ariz

People in their 20s in action for better care for the elderly: this is the mission of Beejan, Emma and Ariz

by News Room
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Thinking about elderly care: it is not something for many young people, but Beejan (25) has decided to make it his career. Just like fellow students Emma (24) and Ariz (23). “There is no simple solution to this.”

Society is aging rapidly. Therefore, proper care of the elderly is an important issue. In the Master’s program Health, Aging and Society at Leiden University, young people are trained to think about this.

Experience in elderly care

Like his fellow students, Beejan Hosainy mainly focuses on the politics of his education, but he also knows the problems in practice. First as a branch assistant in a home care organization, then in home care and also as an exercise assistant for the elderly.

And long before that, in high school, he already completed a social internship at a nursing home. Experience is enough to see for yourself where the development targets are in elderly care and especially in home care for the elderly.

Stories about training

The stories he encountered during his work made an impression. “For example, an 80-year-old woman still wanted to live at home in her apartment on the fourth floor,” he says. “She had difficulty walking, but still wanted to continue shopping and asked the municipality for help. But Wmo (ed.) differs regionally and municipally in terms of content, so her municipality could not provide it.”

A difficult situation to solve, but also an interesting challenge, says Beejan enthusiastically. “Then we had to spar with the social workers, but also with the people of the municipality: how are we going to shape this? What can informal caregivers do? What kind of social network is there? Stories like that you hear when you visit the elderly on the doorstep have influenced how I want to think about it.”

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Older people want to participate

According to Beejan, the image that people over 75 no longer participate in society is a limited representation of reality. “That is aging (negative stereotyping of the elderly ed.). Everyone has the right to take a step back.”

“I played for a long time in a football club where there are still old people who do bar shifts and take care of technical things. It feels very important and we mean, among other things, vitality in training.”

Talking to the elderly

That’s why it’s good that older people also think for themselves, sees Beejan. This is also done during training by inviting elderly people to discussions and as speakers in lectures. “All elderly people have their own life experience and they know how to tell what is needed. Some are intelligent and analytical, others are wise in their choices in life.”

According to him, the self-sufficiency of the elderly is currently not supported and encouraged enough. He is particularly troubled by the lack of time of the district nurses and the long queues for domestic help and help with everyday tasks, such as cooking. “If you don’t get help, living at home longer is really difficult.”

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Master’s program with the elderly

Professor Jacobijn Gussekloo says that it is a conscious choice to include the elderly in the Health, Aging and Society course. He considers it important that students, future geriatricians and elderly care decision-makers are really taught by the elderly, so that they know what it is to be old and what the elderly need.

He emphasizes that elderly care students face many challenges: “It’s an interesting field of science and innovations are needed. In elderly care, you can pretend that everything is doom and gloom, but you can also say: ‘You have to think about this wisely.’

Gussekloo opposes the idea that there is simply less care for the elderly than we are used to due to a lack of nursing staff: “The quality does not necessarily have to decrease, better care should be possible with fewer professionals. The challenges of aging come later than before, let’s think about what the vital elderly can still do.”

Look for solutions

Aged care is fraught with misunderstandings, problems and potential problems: staff are currently understaffed and the population is aging, which means fewer and fewer elderly people are working.

This is also a challenge for students who are committed to improving the situation. “In research, we call it a ‘wicked problem’, a problem for which there is no simple solution,” says Emma van Dam, who also attends the course.

Think later

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Emma wanted to continue her studies. He has also always had a connection with the elderly: he previously did volunteer work at a facility for the demented.

Now the student is concerned about other things, such as “proactive care planning”. “It’s a form of conversation where people have to think in advance about ‘what else do I want’ and ‘what else do I find meaningful in life?’ This can be an important conversation, especially with vulnerable elderly people.”

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Last wishes

In public discourse, such debates are often mentioned in the same breath as “healthcare costs,” but that’s not what immediately comes to Emma’s mind. “These discussions take place, for example, at the village clinic, where vulnerable elderly people with acute problems are taken. A place between a hospital and a nursing home or long-term care at home.”

“For example, someone has pneumonia or chronic lung diseases that have worsened a lot, then it is sometimes a matter of a few months that someone is still alive. Then there is such a discussion,” he explains. This sometimes shows that the elderly are afraid of dying or where someone wants to die, for example: in a hospice or at home. “If you don’t have these conversations, everyone ends up in the same mill, while each parent has their own needs.”

From the laboratory to the ministry

But the conversation with the caregivers is also important, because this is the only way to find out what they need for better care of the elderly. This is something that student Ariz Farhan is worried about. He is doing an internship at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports in the long-term care department.

Ariz has already acquired the necessary experience in the healthcare sector: he previously worked as a team leader at GGD during the corona pandemic and completed a bachelor’s degree in biomedicine. Mainly laboratory work, which he does much less these days.

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Interest arose

Ariz ended up in elderly care because of a project that collected data from the elderly. That’s where his interest was piqued. “These were surveys with questions like, ‘Is the information you got from your GP clear?'” he says of the study.

“I noticed that older people regularly don’t find information clear, and I thought: maybe that would be fun to work on,” he continues. “If you don’t understand the GP’s information, it affects the quality of life. So it can be improved.”

Dissertation on nursing homes

That’s why Ariz is now doing research on care technology in nursing homes for his master’s thesis. The student sees that employees sometimes have difficulties using (new) technologies in healthcare.

“Different tablets are used, with one device they get a notification that a resident has fallen, with another that someone needs to receive medication. So it’s not integrated,” he explains. “I’m looking into what they like, one system or different systems side by side.”

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Behind the scenes or behind the scenes?

Beejan is receiving positive reactions for her choice to work on elderly care policy at her age. “But I’ve heard it’s different compared to other aged care jobs or professions.” For example, he sees many of his peers who work more “hands-on” as self-employed people rather than “behind the scenes” as he does.

But this suits him much better, the student says. “I like the big picture. How can we make sure behind the scenes that the elderly can age vigorously, with their informal caregivers in mind?”

Caring for each other

Beejan has also learned about the importance of the network surrounding the elderly from home: “I am of Afghan origin and grew up according to Islamic norms and values. I notice that in my culture and religion there is a lot of commonality and understanding of things like caring for and taking care of others.”

“My mother drove from Arnhem to Oosterhout every week when my grandfather was not well and my father visits my grandmother every week,” he says about his own family. Although the twentysomething also realizes that this is not possible for everyone.

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