About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.

What is the top challenge facing in-home care in your city, and what is your proposed solution?

Essay response by Emily Johnson, Tufts University School of Medicine

Growing up in America, and especially in New England, sentiments of pride are often elicited at hearing that you did something independent from the help of others. These sentiments continue well into senior citizenship and often are accompanied with
stubbornness as well as sadness with losing one’s independence. Thus many challenges arise when discussing any type of care, let alone in-home care, for our independent, strong-willed aging population. One of the top challenges facing in-home care in my area is the negative connotation that often accompanies it. Currently, my friend and his family are struggling with how best to care for his 85-year old grandmother who recently fell and fractured her pelvic bone. Up until right before her fall, she was still refusing help from family members to perform necessary household chores because she felt as if she could still do them on her own. Now that she is less mobile and is rehabbing at a local retirement home, the question is how to best support her as she transitions from a fully-staffed facility to back into her home, where she desperately wants to be.

Since affording in-home care, is not as challenging for those in my area as compared to some other areas, it is nevertheless often not utilized and even rejected by the proud, independent New Englanders who see this change as a step toward a complete loss of independence and ultimately their demise. What they often cannot see is how in-home care can actually make them more independent and ultimately improve their quality of life. Most often the reason for this blindness comes from the heavily negative connotation placed on needing help and also asking for it in our society. Home healthcare aid in my experience has often been compared to taking care of a child or a newborn, who cannot fend for themselves. Most often it is the senior citizens in my life who present this comparison and they find this juxtaposition completely insulting and unappealing. Yet, if our society were to be honest and truly introspective, we could see that human beings are never totally independent from one another, no matter what stage of life they are in. The slow solution to this issue is changing the lens through which we see in-home care so that it can be seen as a perk, rather than a negative.

In-home care can be greatly beneficial to the family members supporting the senior because it ultimately lends itself to building more free time and positive memories with the one’s grandparent or parent. In addition, the team supporting the senior citizen can rest easier because they know their loved one will have assistance when performing difficult tasks. Although we continue to see the benefits of in-home care such as helping family members enjoy more time together or ensuring the health and safety of the senior citizen in need of help, accepting help remains nonetheless a struggle for many people.

Through my studies and own life experiences however, I find this change very difficult, regardless of the benefits. As negative associations with in-home heath aid are often paired with a refusal of the help, this remains a challenge facing in-home care in my area. The solution to the problem will take time and most likely a slow change of attitude towards acknowledging the need for help and asking for it.

On a personal level, I would encourage the next generation to start take notes and begin to look forward to the benefits of in-home care when it is their turn to receive it. On a professional level, we need to help reeducate the public to understand that
in-home care can aid patient independence, not force dependence, and that getting help earlier may ultimately make the journey more enjoyable and satisfying.

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