Different country, similar challenges

This week we hear from Teresa Atkinson about a recent work trip to Madrid (we’re not jealous, honestly!)…

A trip to sunny Madrid in the heart of an English winter is always an attractive proposition, especially when it is to share learning and understanding around long-term care with other countries. The Association for Dementia Studies was privileged to be invited to the Fundacion Ramon Areces in Madrid to their conference discussing Long-Term Care: International Trends and Challenges in Spain. 

The conference was founded on the 2021 Report of the José María Martín Patino Chair, which identified the need for urgent cultural change in the long-term care model of care in Spain, putting people at the heart of its reformulation. Speakers from around the world took to the stage to share their ideas. The first session focused on international experiences of service provision to support future care planning and strategic development. David Grabowski, a Professor of Health Care Policy, from Harvard Medical School, kicked off the session talking about innovations in long-term care in the USA, followed by Adelina Comas, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, who focused on the future of long-term care in the post-Covid era. The session wrapped up with a discussion on the challenges of autonomy and dependency care in Spain by Gregorio Rodríguez Cabrero, Professor of Sociology from the University of Alcalá de Henares.

The second half of the conference focused on residential care which, in Spain, has been characterised by institutionalised models which are distanced from normal, daily life. Speakers were invited to talk about the ways in which other countries put people at the heart of care, to support Spain’s process of deinstitutionalisation and transformation to more home-like and normalised models.

Teresa Martínez, a Psychologist and Gerontologist from the Principality of Asturias, Spain, opened the session by discussing trends moving towards person-centred care. I was second up on the agenda talking about our projects at the Association for Dementia Studies focusing on Meeting Centres, developing enabling environments, and models of Extra Care Housing. Finally, Eloy van Hal, founder of Hogeweyk in the Netherlands wrapped up the session discussing the principles of the dementia village. It was great to hear about Hogeweyk again having visited it a few years ago.

Photo showing the various presenters lined up on stage - Teresa Atkinson is fourth from the left in a white dress
Teresa Atkinson (fourth from the left) with the other presenters

The conference was important in giving the audience, some 300 participants, the opportunity to have a discussion around how the changes in Spain can be envisaged and operationalised. There was plenty of debate following each speaker session, with similar questions and challenges to that posed in any country: How do we ensure our services are fit for purpose and well resourced? How do we ensure we have the right staff with the right expertise? How do we provide for long-term care across multiple complex conditions, including people with intellectual disabilities? 

Different country, similar challenges. The UK’s own Archbishops Commissioned Report, Reimagining Care was launched earlier this year. It sets out a challenge to us all: ‘We must rethink the way care is viewed – care and support is not about meeting people’s basic needs, but the spiritual, emotional and practical support we all need to live a full life’

You can find audio recordings of the two sessions (in English and in Spanish), together with photos from the conference, on this website in the audio section. Teresa features in the second recording from around 18 minutes in.

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow


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