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 the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Cassidy Parkinson, Bethel University
Seventy six years old, hard of hearing, diabetic, with a touch of cynicism towards today’s society: This is my grandfather. He often lectures me and my siblings about our use of technology, “You young folks… You are obsessed with technology and it will ruin your future”. My grandfather, however, is unaware of the ability that technology has to improve his health as well as over twelve million American seniors who receive in-home care today (Home Care & Hospice Facts & Stats). By using technology, in-home care increases efficiency, allowing care to be more direct and personalized for each client.
Efficiency is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “The ability to do something or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy”. Increasing the use of technology in in-home care directly increases efficiency, which reduces waste of time, materials, or energy. Taylor Stewart, a technical support analyst for Home Health & Hospice software applications, explains how technology efficiency betters client health. She states, “Technology provides caregivers access to the most up to date version of all client charts while they are providing care, which allows them to thoroughly and quickly provide the best care for each client”.
One of the major movements in technology is the use of electronic health records, also known as EHR. As Ms. Stewart describes, EHR offers caregivers access to medical history, patient charting, and care plans on site (HCTAA). Implementing electronic health records increases care efficiency by shortening the time caregivers spend gathering information about each client. It also informs caregivers on how to best care for clients, as nurses and doctors are able to view and add to EHR off site. Along with reducing the time spent gathering patient information, EHR allows each caregiver to direct extra time focused on the holistic health of each client.
An alarming study was conducted involving the mental health of American seniors receiving in-home care. The student revealed that “geriatric major depression is twice as common in patients receiving home care” (M, Bruce). Although physical health is typically the main care focus for caregivers, American seniors receiving in-home care battle a variety of issues surrounding emotional, spiritual, mental, and social health. Common issues such as financial stress due to medical bills, feelings of isolation, or frustration over physical limitations decrease overall health. Caregivers must address all aspects of each client’s health in order to heal the whole person.
In order to provide holistic care, nurses must spend more time with each client to understand what their unique needs are in addition to physical help. Technology “has the potential to improve the environment for nurses by helping them devote time and expertise to caring for patients rather than tracking down equipment, managing supplies, or locating clinicians and staff” (Turisco, Fran, and Jared Rhoads). With an allowance of more time to spend with each client, in-home care has the capability to focus on the exclusive needs of each individual, as they vary in different circumstances. While some client needs are strictly physical and mainly involve help with Activities of Daily Living, others develop needs based off of their physical limitations. There is importance found in healing the entirety of a human being, whether it is physical, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, cultural, or relational (Thornton).
Technology, despite my grandfather’s beliefs, is a positive tool that improves the health of American seniors receiving in-home care. Technology increases efficiency and therefore decreases time spent finding information on each client, gathering equipment, or communicating with other staff members. By increasing the time caregivers have with each client, care becomes more personalized, direct, and holistic. Technology allows care to be provided in a holistic manner, which betters the overall health of each client, ultimately improving several aspects of in-home healthcare that go beyond just physical needs.
Cassidy attends Bethel University as a nursing student.