ZonMw facilitates research and encourages innovation in long-term care and support in order to improve vulnerable people’s quality of life, enhance healthcare professionals’ job satisfaction and contribute to the sustainability of healthcare as a whole.
Care and support for vulnerable groups
The number of people with complex and/or long-term care needs is growing. They include vulnerable elderly people, people with a learning or physical disability, and people who are terminally ill. Diseases like cancer and heart and kidney failure are becoming more treatable and sometimes develop into chronic conditions.
Keeping healthcare (including intensive healthcare) accessible and affordable requires collaboration within the field and a different view of health, with a shift in focus from illness and care to health and behaviour (positive health).
Improving quality of life
Irrespective of a person’s physical or psychological state, there are other factors (both internal and external) that impact on their quality of life. Beliefs, social relationships, living environment, degree of independence and autonomy also have a bearing on quality of life. ZonMw funds research on topics like sense of purpose, loneliness, positive health, appropriate care and the social domain, to explore how these factors affect quality of life.
Funding and organisation of long-term care and support for vulnerable groups
Vulnerable people with long-term care needs often receive care and support under several statutory frameworks – the Health Insurance Act (Zorgverzekeringswet), the Social Support Act (Wet maatschappelijke ondersteuning) and the Long-term Care Act (Wet langdurige zorg) – and it is often provided at home, or in a sheltered housing facility in a regular residential neighbourhood.
The ambition of giving vulnerable people integrated individual care means we need multi-domain collaboration between policymakers and funding bodies, care providers and care workers. A great deal of work is still required in order to design appropriate and workable models for this collaboration.
Building a sustainable knowledge base for long-term care and support
How do we ensure that care remains affordable and accessible to vulnerable groups who are dependent on long-term care and support? What is needed to improve their quality of life? And what can we do to reduce the pressure on the care sector? There are no simple answers to these questions. We need to build a sustainable knowledge base for long-term care and support, in which existing knowledge is shared and further developed, with interaction between researchers and practitioners. There must also be room for new knowledge and innovative ideas.
A sustainable knowledge base will not only be for healthcare professionals, but also for family and informal carers. Making new insights and knowledge findable and accessible for these people will allow more collaboration in the organisation of formal and informal care in the future.
ZonMw facilitates the development of a sustainable knowledge infrastructure for long-term care and support, with its Long-term Care and Support Programme and academic collaborative centres for Elderly Care and Learning Disabilities. Key elements of the programme are: clients, knowledge infrastructure, integrated care and support networks and practice-oriented research.
ZonMw health research and knowledge development for long-term care and support for specific groups
ZonMw funds health research, encourages the use of the knowledge developed and points out where more knowledge is needed. We also do this for vulnerable groups that are dependent on long-term care and support. We involve experiential experts, policymakers and professionals from the field and from education in our programmes to develop knowledge and apply it in practice with a specific focus on various vulnerable groups:
Vulnerable elderly people
There is no such thing as a typical elderly person, and there are major differences among the elderly in terms of their fitness and vigour, vulnerability, chronic illness and need for care and support. Elderly people with dementia, for example, require different care and support than those with COPD. There are also many different forms of care and support: personal care and nursing, medical care, day centres, medical devices and residential care. The organisation of care and support is another important subject for elderly people, centred on the question of what care can be provided at home, and when a residential facility is more appropriate.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for vulnerable elderly people will be posted here soon.
People with a learning disability
People with a learning disability or brain injury will require care and support for the rest of their lives. This applies not only to the person in question: their family and volunteers will also require support as they care for them. People with a mild learning disability require different care and support from those with severe, possibly multiple learning disabilities or non-congenital brain injury.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for people with a learning disability will be posted here soon.
People with a physical disability or condition
People with a physical disability find it more difficult in various ways to participate in the life of society. Things like work, housing, social activities and mobility involve challenges for people with a physical disability. Their care and support needs can therefore vary, ranging from movement therapy to custom-made medical devices or special transport.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for people with a physical disability or condition will be posted here soon.
People with a sensory impairment
The group of people with a sensory impairment is as diverse as the population of the Netherlands. All kinds of visual impairment and blindness, hearing impairment and deafness and communication disorders exist, so the needs of people with a sensory impairment and their families also vary widely. A customised approach is therefore needed, and care and support requires specific knowledge and expertise.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for people with a sensory impairment will be posted here soon.
People living with a terminal illness
If a disease cannot be cured, it is important to devote personal attention to providing care and support so that the person in question can continue to live their life as they wish. Care and support focus mainly on slowing any deterioration and maintaining quality of life. Examples of care and support include proactive care planning, palliative care, and also support for informal carers.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for people living with a terminal illness will be posted here soon.
People with a psychological vulnerability
People who develop psychological problems are often vulnerable. Examples of psychological conditions that can require long-term care and support include dementia, addiction, autism and trauma (PTSD). Besides collecting and disseminating knowledge about mental health, ZonMw programmes also focus on improving collaboration between professionals and domains.
A link to a page with more details about ZonMw’s efforts for care and support for people with a psychological vulnerability will be posted here soon.
Technology and digitization in long-term care
Can we maintain accessibility in long-term care with the help of technology and digitization? Healthcare is under pressure due to a shortage of personnel and an increasing demand for care. This pressure is also noticeable in long-term care, and there is a need for understanding how technology and digitization can contribute to supporting the health and well-being of citizens and alleviating the workload of healthcare professionals.
ZonMw focuses on digitization and technology in various research programs. It is also playing an increasingly prominent role in elderly care and disability care. To better understand what knowledge is already present in the field and what knowledge needs still exist, ZonMw has commissioned the research agency Andersson Elffers Felix to conduct a comprehensive exploration of the field. This exploration includes information about developments and needs, good examples, inhibiting and facilitating factors, and how ZonMw can promote positive effects of digitization and technology in long-term care.