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.
How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Alexandria Ashbaugh, Bethel University
As a person who has participated in the in-home care of a loved one, I feel very strongly about care for seniors and the elderly. In our culture that so values youth and vitality, I believe seniors and the valuable contributions they make to our society have become an afterthought or forgotten entirely. That needs to change and that is why I am choosing to go into the field of Physical Therapy. I want to work in conjunction with doctors, occupational therapists, dieticians, and other medical professionals to improve the lives of people everywhere – regardless of age.
I was given the honor of caring for my Grandmother following the death of my Grandfather in 2010 when my family moved in to live with her. While perhaps the care became tedious at times when her cane fell and I had to pick it up repeatedly in one day or when she wasn’t strong enough to lift the milk gallon to pour on her cereal, the life lessons she taught me about faith, hard work, and selflessness continue to stick with me today. The quiet times where we would talk together in her office were well worth the little everyday tasks she needed help with. It was during these times that my Gramma instilled in me a love for medicine and health.
My Gramma was a nurse back in the fifties, and then went on to become a successful business woman, owner of several nursing homes, and an expert witness in cases of nursing home neglect. She even served on a panel of experts during the Clinton Administration while talks of healthcare overhauls were on everyone’s minds. She always fought for the elderly, a “wonderful but vulnerable population” she called them. While she was quite successful in her lifetime, she always used her success and prestige to better the lives of those around her – especially seniors. She has truly interested me in improving the lives of people everywhere, including seniors – people who have contributed in such great ways to us and now need a little more help in their older years.
From these talks with my Gramma I discovered our similar interests and I decided to become a Physical therapist. Having seen much of the medical world in my short, 20 year life, I have come to the conclusion that people receive the best healthcare when medical professionals of all fields work together in a complimentary, holistic approach to the individual’s wellness. In the case of my Grandma recovering from a surgery to remove a brain tumor (she was a strong woman to live through that one!), her doctors worked closely with physical and occupational therapists to help reteach her body to get in and out of cars, to tie her shoes, to grasp a fork, and to chew with her mouth closed. These seem like such trivial tasks, but they gave her back pride, dignity, and independence. These are the sorts of things I can contribute as a Physical therapist to in-home care providers. Physical therapists can have a unique relationship with the in-home care provider – one in which the physical, mental, and emotional welfare of the senior is the utmost goal. I want to help be that life-giving force that facilitates healing both physically, mentally, and emotionally in people’s lives. I want to give mobility back to the immobile, to give hope back to the hopeless, and to give independence back to the dependent. I believe that through healing the physical, I can touch the emotional. And all throughout the rehabilitative process I want to love on people, showing them that they are valued and important – not just a patient on my list of to-do’s.
Whatever my career outcomes, I know I want to help people young and old in any way possible. There is no other career goal more fulfilling. As a physical therapist, I will be able to reach that goal by serving people. I cannot imagine a way in which I would honor my Grandmother more.
Alexandra is an Athletic Training, Pre- Physical Therapy Major at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.