1 Polytechnic of Porto (PORTUGAL)
2 CEI ISCAP Polytechnic of Porto (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 2914-2924
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.0873
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
The progressive ageing of the world's populations represents a socio-demographic change that is translated in increasing numbers of people who are over 60 years old. Consequently, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), we are rapidly approaching, for the first time in history, a stage when there will be more older people than younger people. In this context, together with the several governmental, budgetary and social repercussions, educational and literacy concerns have also been arising, particularly those regarding the skills of formal and informal caregivers, as it is often the case in which family/friends/neighbours are held responsible for the care of their elderly relatives/acquaintances. Informal caregivers have become an essential pillar for ensuring and maintaining the outpatient care of the frail elderly.

The health literacy concept began by translating into a set of skills and knowledge that are fundamental to assess, understand and apply all health and healthcare information and procedures. More recently, the concept of health literacy has changed from a purely cognitive definition to a definition that includes the personal and social components of the individual, assuming the ability to make informed decisions in their everyday life. The elderly care consists of a decision-making role in which a person is responsible for another person’s life and wellbeing. This is a role in which the mediation between the needs of the person under the care and the intervention of the health professionals is also fundamental. Thus, informal caregivers are continuously confronted with the need to rapidly develop hard and soft skills for healthcare, which, in turn, accentuate the need to closely monitor their knowledge, skills and challenges.

In the last few years, several studies have shown that inadequate health literacy levels can have significant implications in health outcomes, in the use of health care services and, consequently, in health costs. In Portugal, the first diagnoses of the level of health literacy were conducted in 2015, revealing that over 60% of informal caregivers have problematic or inadequate literacy levels. Since then, an intensive stream of governmental and non-governmental initiatives, projects, incentives, campaigns and training programmes have been developed and offered in the country.

This paper presents the results of exploratory research designed to provide the current diagnose of health literacy levels of informal caregivers of elderly people in northern Portugal, aged over 18 years old (N=210). The European Health Literacy Survey (HLS-EU-PT) was used as the core diagnose instrument, as it is an adequate instrument to measure the health literacy levels of Portuguese population and shows comparable psychometric properties to versions used in the other countries, and previously used in Portugal. Therefore, the presented results allow for cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of the current state of health literacy, under the premise that, during the past four years of enabling settings, the gravity of the inadequacy of skills is expected to register an expressive decrease.
European Health Literacy Survey, Health literacy, Informal caregivers, Elderly care.