International Day of Older Persons. Health is the most recurrent theme in requests for assistance received by the Senior Citizens’ Hotline

The Ombudsman’s Senior Citizens’ Hotline received 1,239 calls to date this year, with the greatest number of requests for assistance related to health (167). This data may confirm the inversion observed in 2021, when, for the first time in the 23 years of existence of this line dedicated to assisting senior citizens, health questions exceeded those related to social responses, which may be explained by the problems associated to the pandemic and increased difficulties in access to medical services.

On the International Day of Older Persons, which is celebrated today, it should also be noted that, keeping the pattern of previous years, almost half (45%) of the calls received throughout 2022 were due to four themes: health, social responses, issues related to abuse and various conflicts.

While health-related issues were always very diverse (167), the majority focused on problems related to the operation/service of family health units and hospitals (provision of primary health care and difficulties in scheduling specialty appointments), access to the national network of integrated continued care, non-urgent patient transport, dementias and mental health, as well as specific issues related to Covid19 vaccination.

Social responses (165), which come in second place, are inherently linked to the vulnerability/dependence of the elderly and the need for institutional support. Most contacts denote the enormous difficulties experienced by the elderly and their families in finding answers such as integration in a Residential Structure for the Elderly, with support from Social Security, as well as the scarcity of other types of answers capable of providing effective support to the most fragile population at home with needs beyond those covered by the Home Support Service.

The third main topic that leads older people, or those close to them, to call the Senior Citizens’ Hotline (114 calls) refers to situations of abuse, namely neglect of care, mistreatment, domestic violence, abandonment and material and financial abuse motivated. Regrettably, although unsurprisingly, the aggressors are generally people very close to the elderly people, often members of their nuclear families (in many situations they are the children and grandchildren themselves).

Conflict situations also gave rise to a significant number of calls (116). As a general rule, these were disputes between children, or between other family members, in relation to the care to be provided to older people or situations where the right to self-determination of the elderly is not respected.

The Senior Citizen’s Hotline most often combines the provision of information with forwarding the complainants to the competent entities. This was the case in 931 cases between January and September 2022, corresponding to 75% of the situations in which the Line was asked to intervene. Cases of mediation and monitoring of situations accounted for 9% (118) of the total number of calls. It should be noted that this more interventive action occurs in (more urgent) situations in which there is a need to signal the case to the Institute of Social Security, the social action services of municipal or parish councils, the IPSS (private social solidarity institutions) or primary health care units.

Senior Citizen’s Line
800 20 35 31 (free call)
Working days, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
(There is a message recorder outside these times)

What is it for?
The Senior Citizens’ Line is a free telephone line especially geared towards the problems of the older population, providing information on the rights and support that older people have, namely in areas such as health, social security, housing, facilities and services.

How does it work?
The members of the Ombudsman’s team that answer the Senior Citizen’s Hotline provide personalized service, and with informality and speed, they provide the desired clarifications, and may, if the case requires it, forward the situation to the competent entities (for example, the Institute of Social Security, I.P.) and contact the relevant institutions (such as health establishments).

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