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Elderly and chronic illness: loneliness and vulnerability

Economic difficulties, need for assistance, loneliness, vulnerability… The Study of the Impact of Chronic Disease on the Elderly highlights the need for change and places women over 80 as the most fragile group .

Older people with chronic illness: vulnerability and loneliness

An old man rests on a street bench/EFE/ Eliseo Trigo

The figures on the effect of chronic illness on older people are telling: 28% of people with a chronic illness over the age of 65 live alone and up to 43% feel bad about it.

The Platform of Patient Organizations (POP)In collaboration with the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, it has presented this study with the intention of identifying the situation of health and social care, in addition to the emotional impact of chronic illness.

There is much room for improvement

The primary objective is none other than propose possibilities for improvement.

Thus, the president of the POP, Carina Escobarput the subject key on the table:

“A more focused attention on people, especially the most vulnerable, more proactive, flexible assistance processes, which take into account situations such as loneliness, advanced age or socio-economic situation”, considers Carina Escobar.

Conclusions are drawn from the study based on the following aspects:

Most vulnerable profile

The most vulnerable profile is that of women older than 80 years:

  • income and level of low education.
  • Pluripathology.
  • with communication barriers with their healthcare professionals who limit their self-care.
  • They attend fewer medical consultations.
  • It works out great for them difficult to access social resources.
  • They receive less help from your family and professional environment of what they need.


One of the most striking insights from the study is that 30% of elderly people who need help do not receive any caregiving assistance. The three types of tasks they need most often are:

  • To go out at the street
  • do the food
  • Housework how:
    • Cleaning up
    • order
    • Wash
    • To iron

Economic situation

The financial difficulties faced by the elderly also do not go unnoticed. 44% of respondents declare to have some type of financial difficulty to reach the end of the month. The most difficult expenses to face are:

  • Those related to basic needs how…
    • The housing
    • supplies
    • Food shopping
  • Costs derived from the physiotherapy and rehabilitation

Chronic disease and psychological distress in the elderly

The psychological discomfort often produced by suffering from a chronic disease affects the 61% of people major respondents They admit to occasionally having negative thoughts and emotions because of their illness. 28%, on the other hand, say they have it often.

This leads to 47% stating that they are dating less or much less than before because of their health status, which reinforces this discomfort: the lower the frequency of social interactions, the more psychological discomfort and vice versa.

The profile of those affected

The biggest victims of this situation are:

  • Over 80 years old.
  • With studies and low social class.
  • With more than one chronic disease.

Treatment for mental health

In addition, access to treatment by mental health specialists is scarce. Only 8% are currently receiving treatment, far from the 32% of people who feel psychological distress frequently

Attention and assistance

Health care has worsened as a result of the pandemic: the rating you receive is from 6.65.

In terms of care resources, the lack of information is what stands out the most. The facilities they have such as:

  • teleassistance
  • Day centers
  • Domiciliary allowances
  • Parking cards for reduced mobility
  • Financial aid

The fact that the users themselves are informed of its existence, evidencing the lack of information in this regard.

A worker helps an elderly woman/EFE/David Fernández

How can we change it?

Based on the conclusions of the study, the POP defines nine proposals for improvement:

  1. Patient-centered care. Implementing the necessary reforms to guarantee this is essential, especially for the elderly, taking into account their fragility and respecting their autonomy and dignity.
  2. Bio-psychosocial care. Carry out a type of care adapted to the needs of the elderly in a vulnerable situation, determined by their clinical condition, loneliness, age or the availability of a carer or family member.
  3. Face-to-face, online and home care. Making attention flexible so that it is contemplated, in accordance with the specific needs of each one is of great importance
  4. Access to information. Improve access to information by patients and their carers about the social and socio-health resources they can access.
  5. Integration and interoperability. Advance these aspects between the health and social systems so that older people have an integrated medical history equipped with health and social information.
  6. Basic social conditions. Ensuring the right to basic conditions that affect people’s health: housing, food or the electricity bill are also determinants of health.
  7. Psychological care needs. Respond to these needs, through the universalization of psychological care in the public health system and the incorporation of the particular needs of the elderly and their relatives.
  8. Training of health and non-health professionals. Promote training in communication and information to improve the doctor-patient-caregiver relationship.
  9. Equity and access to health and social resources with a gender perspective. All in order to attend to the urgent needs of women, especially the most vulnerable.
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