In the last week of November, FOCUS News interviewed Dr Donata Kurpas and Aneta Soll, the people responsible for the implementation of the Polish branch of the FOCUS pilot in Wroclaw, Opole and chatted with some of the participants in the study.
FOCUS News: For your part in the FOCUS project, you are running a rather challenging program in Wroclaw. In terms of the number of participants, it will be the largest FOCUS pilot. Could you please explain to our readers why you have decided to run a 5-arm study with over 200 participants?
Donata Kurpas: Well, we are building on knowledge outlined in the FOCUS Guidelines that will soon be published, showing that many factors influence the onset of frailty in older people. Therefore, we set off to study some of the most important factors.
Aneta Soll: We are working with frail patients aged 60 years old or older, assigned to one of three intervention groups we are running. One group is focused on diet, another one is engaged in physical activity and the third one is undergoing a complex therapy where both diet and physical activity are combined. We are also running an educational intervention directed to a group of caregivers.
FOCUS News: What do you mean by focused on diet and physical activity? What do these people actually receive and do?
Donata Kurpas: For those working on the way they eat, our nutritionist has prepared dietary recommendations based on patient menus that have been analysed and amended. Important aspects of the recommended diet are correct intakes of protein and fruit and vegetables, as well as cutting down unnecessary sugars and excess salt. Participants also receive personalized recommendations, affordable diet tips and suggestions for easy-to-prepare at home meals.
Aneta Soll: Our program of physical exercises has been prepared by physiotherapists considering the age and capabilities of our patients. Each training session consists of warm-ups, resistance exercises, strengthening and stretching exercises. Physical exercises are done with dumbbells, a common equipment that every senior is able to get. An instructional video is available to patients on DVD and online. First of all, patients train in an organized group under the supervision of an instructor and then practice at home.
FOCUS News: What do you expect to achieve by the end of the program?
Donata Kurpas: Well, we expect those participating in the interventions to have improved when compared to themselves at the start of the study but also when compared to those in the control group, who haven’t received any kind of treatment. We assessed a number of physical, psychological and social aspects before working with our patients and will repeat the measurements after three and six months.
FOCUS News: We have chatted a bit with some of your participants, about the aims of the FOCUS project but also about the interventions they were undertaken, benefits they were feeling and challenges they were facing. Let’s hear from them!
Mrs Halina: “I have participated with others in what the doctors call the comprehensive therapy group. After these weeks of training and attention to my diet, I feel like stronger, more disciplined and full of energy.”
Mrs Ania: “I am glad that physical exercises are easy to do so that I can repeat them myself at home. I am trying to keep with my dietary recommendations and I realize that since I have been taking part in the project I am eating more fruit and vegetables and I have cut in the amount of sugar and sweet things .. I have trouble when it comes to protein, thought because I'm a vegetarian and it causes me some trouble because I do not eat meat at all.”
Mrs Grażyna: “Group exercises performed really motivate me to leave the house. I feel that meeting with others somehow helped with my depressed mood and improved my well-being and ability to do my things well. After exercising I feel good tiredness, which adds strength for the rest of my day.”
Mrs. Beata: “After attending the FOCUS training, I took up a challenge that previously seemed impossible to achieve. I started learning German, which I always somehow avoided, and it became a new position on the list of languages I knew. And now this is my passion because I would like to go to Austria, especially South Tyrol, and therefore I study very hard to learn as much as possible about all these countries and speak as fluently as a native Austrian citizen.
Mr Jan: “The FOCUS program fulfils my hopes of overcoming a period of weakness and restoring a sense of well-being. This year I have been seriously ill several times, which means that I was in bed for a long time and I had neurosis, and I did not move much. Participating in the FOCUS group sessions was hoping to overcome this period of weakness and depressive state I was in and get better feeling too.”