CHUA Psychosocial Support Team was the first in the country to reach nursing homes

Initiative went into action on August 9 and reaches four Residential Structures for Elderly People

«Providing comprehensive support to residents with advanced disease and in a fragile situation, providing emotional, social and spiritual support, and giving support and support to families and professionals» of the Residential Structures for Elderly People (ERPI) is the objective of the Team of Psychosocial Support (EAPS) from CHUA, which was a pioneer and has already reached four nursing homes in the Algarve. 

The project of "Emotional, Social and Spiritual Support in Residential Structures for Elderly People" was presented on Friday, the 2nd, in a ceremony that was attended by the CHUA board of directors and the Psychosocial Support Team, representatives of the “la Caixa” Foundation - responsible for the Humaniza program -, Social Security, the Ordem dos Psicólogos, the CHUA Psychology Service, the Regional Health Administration of the Algarve (ARS Algarve) and those responsible for the ERPI involved, the provider of Santa House of Mercy of Faro and the director of services at ACASO.

During the ceremony, all stakeholders highlighted the importance of the project and its need, which intensified after the pandemic. Giovanni Cerullo, technical director of CHUA's EAPS, confessed that this was always a wish that has now come true, but he stressed that "the pandemic gave the push for us to realize that there are great needs for psychological support" also in these age groups.

«In Spain, this project has been in action since 2021 and has now come to Portugal, where we have 11 psychosocial support teams, but only three have started activity in homes. We were the first of these three and that is also due to the great openness of the CHUA Board of Directors and the ease of contacts in our region, where we all know each other", the doctor told the Sul Informação.

Ana Varges Gomes, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CHUA, took the opportunity to recall that this Hospital Center has been «investing heavily in proximity care», «not only with the increase in the offer of home hospitalization», but also in ERPI .


Photo: Mariana Carriço | Sul Informação


"But we didn't stop there, and we won't", he said, congratulating the work of the CHUA Psychosocial Support Team which, together with the administration, "has achieved many good things within the principle that we have, which is to provide care for quality to those who need us. And those who need us are not just those who go to the hospital”, continued the president.

In practical terms, Giovanni Cerullo explained to our newspaper that the implementation of the project started in June, with the integration of a psychologist in the teams. In July, protocols for the project were created in the four ERPI (Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Faro, Torre de Natal, Candeias Neto and the Cultural and Social Support Association of Olhão – ACASO).

In August, on the 9th, the team's psychologist, Vera Martins, started working in the field.

«Vera was contracted with the sponsorship of the “la Caixa” Foundation, within the scope of the Humaniza program, and, on fixed weekdays, goes to each home. At this time, all seniors have to be evaluated from the point of view of psychology. Therefore, in a first approach, referrals are made by nursing home technicians, who already know the users, and who refer them to the psychologist. Then, the psychologist makes a personalized assessment, just for that user, so that a plan is then created that is followed by the professional», clarified Giovanni Cerullo.


CHUA's Psychosocial Support team – Photo: Mariana Carriço | Sul Informação


Currently, according to the data presented by the psychologist, there are about 100 thousand people living in homes in Portugal. Of these, 80% have chronic, complex and advanced diseases, and 25% need palliative care.

“It is a very vulnerable population”, explained the professional.

After having already made some visits, Vera Martins confessed to the Sul Informação that the elderly «missed a lot of psychological and emotional support, of someone who would give them attention and my role also involves a lot of alleviating suffering, helping to face the disease process or institutionalization and I feel that they value this support very much» .

In addition, support will be put into practice for families, in order to assess the possible emotional suffering that the illness of the institutionalized elderly may cause them.

“It is also necessary to provide support and education so that the family member knows how to deal with the patient. This is also very important».

During the ceremony, Margarida Flores, director of Social Security for Faro, made a point of emphasizing that «the greatest longevity achieved does not always correspond to the level of well-being» and, therefore, «this type of intervention and monitoring further enhances the implementation of the principles of action of an ERPI, namely its quality and efficiency, humanization and respect for the resident's individuality».


Ana Varges Gomes, chairman of the Board of CHUA, with Candeias Neto, provider of Misericórdia de Faro, in the signature of the documents – Photo: Mariana Carriço | Sul Informação


«The end of life is a very complex phase and seeing it not only as a physical part, but also a psychological one, is essential. This team having taken this initiative is to be commended. I wish you a lot of success and I hope that it will be replicated by more structures», also stressed the nurse Fernanda Faleiro, from the board of directors of ARS Algarve.

CHUA's Psychosocial Support, after arriving at the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Faro, Torre de Natal, Candeias Neto and the Cultural and Social Support Association of Olhão – ACASO, should be extended to more homes.

«We hope that, a year from now, when we take stock of the situation, the foundation “La Caixa” will challenge CHUA to expand to other entities and also help in the hiring of more psychologists. Psychological support is not something simple, it requires a specific time for each user and, therefore, we are eager to be able to increase the number of homes and professionals", concluded Giovanni Cerullo.


Photos: Mariana Sedge | Sul Informação