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 Buffy Oliver, Oakland University
Within my own life, I learned at a young age that volunteering was a very important activity that can enhance the lives of others and nourish one’s own soul. As a child, my best friend and I rode our bikes past a nursing home on a regular basis. We had talked about stopping to ask if we could help with anything but shyness kept us from approaching the unknown building for quite some time. At about the age of 10, we took the steps up to the double doors. Upon entering, the woman that was at the welcome desk was elated to have us offer our assistance. From that time on, we helped do things such as wheeling clients in wheelchairs to mealtime and playing games with them in recreational areas.
We expanded our visits to include one-on-one time with some of the residents. We learned so many fascinating things. One of the personal stories that stood out to me was a beautiful resident that had Multiple Sclerosis. She was much younger than most of the other residents. She was bed-ridden, weak, and had much difficulty speaking. When she was having a good day and we could take the time to talk to her, we found out she had been a cheerleader and model prior to her disorder worsening. Her family tried to surround her with beauty as she always had fresh flowers, artwork and other things she loved near her.
There was another woman that was blind that my friend and I loved to visit with. She had been an author and illustrator and loved to share her stories with us. She always had a piece of candy for us, too. Seeing the joy we could bring to these people by just showing up was amazing to us. I realize now that I am older that our fresh, young, innocent faces were probably like a ray of sunshine in the building they had been placed. As we became more comfortable, we got creative. We dressed as clowns and volunteered at their fundraising yard sale. We hand-made cards and sewed little things stuffed with fluff to distribute to all of the residents for Christmas. We did something special for each resident when we were notified of their upcoming birthdays. No one made us do this or even suggested it to us. Our hearts took us there.
Upon high school graduation, I decided to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide while I was attending college. I worked in two nursing homes and then did home visits. While performing less-than-glamourous tasks of daily living for people, I was able to see one of the biggest needs I was filling was that of social interaction and the giving of human kindness. To some of the people I visited, I would be the only person they saw that week besides the postman. To the family of loved ones I cared for, I became part of their family. They were sincerely grateful for the respite I could give them and the smiles I gave.
The lives of seniors receiving in-home care can be greatly impacted by the field of psychology. When one learns how to view a person as a holistic entity and understands common processes of aging, more understanding and compassion can be shown to seniors that require in-home care. With my particular focus involving children, I am a firm believer that placing emphasis on philanthropy and participating in quality family activities will help today’s youth reach their full potential. I will encourage connection with family and emphasize the wealth of knowledge that a grandparent may be able to offer and try to convey how helping others will also help oneself in seeking happiness. The quality of life for seniors may be improved by increased contact with the children I counsel. In addition, these children will hopefully develop into adults that treat the world with kindness and help those in need.
Buffy is currently pursuing a masters in school counseling at Oakland University.