Judith Long is a Project Officer in Research and Development at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Here she introduces a new collaborative project to promote independence in older age.
EASYCare is a collaborative project involving a large network of researchers, service providers, practitioners, volunteers and age advocacy partners throughout the world. Our mission is to extend healthy active life and maximise independence in old age using the EASYCare targeted approach to early identification of needs, and by providing a response according to the priorities of the older person.
At its core are the EASYCare Standard instruments which are a unique suite of tools for identifying threats to health, independence and well-being in old age. They allow front-line practitioners and voluntary workers to undertake a brief multi-dimensional assessment of the physical, mental and social functioning. It is also simple enough to be self-completed by an older person. Information obtained can be used to mobilise information, advice and support based on the priorities of an older person, which is the key to produce a personal and efﬁcient service response.
EASYCare domains (49 items) include: Seeing, hearing and communicating; Getting around; Safety Accommodation and finance; Staying healthy; Your mental health and well-being
Built on 25 years of research and development EASYCare was initially tested and spread within Europe and then in validation studies across all WHO regions of the world. It has since proven to have high acceptability, reliability, validity and cost-effectiveness (Olde-Rikkert et al., 2013). More recently it has been found to be valid and reliable in different countries and cultures including those with poor, middle income and rich populations, with the potential to become a global gold standard for holistic person-centred assessment (Philip et al., 2013).
Example projects: In the UK, one model that has generated a high-level of uptake is for GPs to write out to patients aged 75+ and invite them to use EASYCare with assistance from trained Age UK co-ordinators by telephone or face to face. The results are used to mobilise information, advice and support from a locally developed library of resources. A pdf summary of information is automatically sent to their GP to be incorporated into the older person’s record and can then be referred to during their next appointment. In this population severe bodily pain, trouble sleeping and loneliness were identified as the top three concerns. The majority of users remain highly satisfied with one user commenting, “I cannot believe I now have all this support resulting from a tick in a box. Aged 82 my life has changed…”
In Uganda, the model developed uses EASYCare in conjunction with the Community Life Competence (CLCP) approach. CLCP is a process aimed at facilitating community self-reliance by encouraging older people to appreciate their strength and abilities. The issues and concerns identified by an EASYCare assessment are raised at a community meeting where action plans are created to help create a supportive environment for older people, “I relocated a proposed borehole closer to the home of an older person…” [District councillor]
Sharing information: EASYCare provides a rich resource at both individual and population levels, demonstrating the variety of needs and concerns amongst older people. The data collected can be used to inform service providers about better targeting of resources (much of which can be found within the voluntary sector). It provides an opportunity to make cross cultural comparisons. Most importantly, the programme offers a unique approach by ensuring the older person’s views are captured and made available to those subsequently involved in their care who may not be aware of some of the threats to the older person’s health, independence and well-being.
The EASYCare vision is for a world with a fully engaged population of older people who remain independent, empowered and able to contribute to their communities and family life, adding value to society. This challenges the perception of older people as a burden and shifts the emphasis from a professional definition of need to that of the individual; older people should not be passive recipients of support but instead, be involved in the delivery of their own care.