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 Ashley Olsen, University of Maine

My major of study is nursing.  I think there are many things that nurses can do to improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care.  I live in Maine so most of the towns and cityís are very small and spread apart.  This can make it very hard for people who need in-home care because it may be that they live quite far away or especially in the winter it just may seem impossible to reach them. Maine has one of the largest elderly populations in the nation and that number is only growing. Also I think that it can be hard for seniors to afford the care they need in-home.  I think itís common for people to want to stay in their homes.  They have put a lot of time and effort into getting these homes and taking care of them.  I believe its good for their mental health to be where they are most comfortable.  To improve in-home care I think nursing students and healthcare professionals could try to raise awareness in communities about the issues that face our seniors.  I also think that more programs should be in place to supply volunteers to check on the elderly in their homes.

One of the most common things I see when working at the hospital is seniors injuring themselves, usually by falling, at home.  Most of the time they are living by themselves or with a partner who isnít able to assist with care.  I think if community education was in place then people would be more likely to check on neighbors.  We need to see seniors as valuable pieces of the community rather than burdens on our society.  Hospitalís, nurses, and universityís could talk about this more and teach people about how we should value our elders.

We need to make in-home care a viable affordable option for seniors.  In-home care is better for their mental health then being put into an unfamiliar facility.  I know itís not always an option, but if it is then we should assist them as much as possible.  There seems to be plenty of CNAs willing to work at facilities so why canít we find willing workers to go to peopleís homes?  The problem I have noticed is that the agencies donít pay the workers very well and sometimes the traveling alone can be close to an hour to get to a clients house.  I think it would be interesting to have nursing students have in-home care be a part of their schooling.  Along with clinicals they could be sent into seniors homes and provide care.

As more and more people are fitting into the “elderly” category the issue of good affordable in-home care becomes more pressing.  We canít just send every elderly person with health issues into a facility because there wonít be enough room and the cost would be astronomical.  We need to provide them with more options.  Technology is becoming greater and greater so we could implement some of the new gadgets into our care to become more efficient.  I- pads could be used to store information and send that information to a central database.  I think that music is important for the soul.  Using I-pods to play music for an elderly patient may help them with memory or just improve their mood.   Instead of always being so clinical and medical with the help we provide I think we could also focus on how we could be there for people spiritually.  Instead of just providing the pills and medical interventions we could think of new ways to uplift their spirit.  It seems that becoming a senior can be very degrading as you lose a grip on everything you once were in control of.  We should help them hang on to those parts of their lives that they still be in control of.  Just making an effort to talk to the elderly and making a point to go see a friend of relative I believe can make a world of difference.

So the biggest thing I believe the nursing field could do to improve in-home care is to really educate the community.  Making more volunteer programs would be great and holding classes at local hospitals about how to care for our seniors.  Everyone should be encouraged to use new and innovative ways to improve the physical and also mental health of our seniors.  We need to hold our seniors up and make them a more important part of our community like in a traditional society.

About Ashley

Ashley is currently a second year student at the University of Maine, who is working on a degree in nursing.

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