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 Christopher White, University of Massachusetts Lowell
I have seen, through my personal experience in running an elderly fitness class alongside my fellow students this past summer as a part of my Co-op this past summer with Dr. Connie Seymour and Dr. Gerard Dybel of the University of Massachusetts Lowell that Exercise Physiology, my primary major of study, can have a tremendous impact on the lives of seniors, especially those receiving in-home care. There, we worked with clients who had trouble with balance along with muscular weakness and less than optimal cardiovascular endurance caused by aging and a prior lack of moderate-to-intense physical activity. The process of teaching them how to regain strength and physical ability had a profound effect on how I look at fitness and physical therapy on the whole.
The major difference between the clients we worked with in the fitness class and those seniors receiving in-home care is that the individuals we saw didn’t have any serious limiting factors keeping them from leaving there homes and coming to the fitness center to work with us. For elderly persons restricted to their homes, either mostly or entirely, exercise would take on an entirely different meaning. In fact, especially in the instances of those with physical handicaps, the exercise prescribed would actually be closer to physical therapy than fitness training. However, having seen just how positive of an effect exercise can have on less-restricted seniors, enabling them to do more advanced activities than they had been capable of in some time, I can only imagine just how far those seniors could come who struggle with many Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). If they could recover even a bit of strength and mobility, simple tasks such as moving about the house and preparing a bit of food for themselves could be made easier and more efficient. Someone with an understanding of exercise physiology, especially one with a Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate degree as I plan to earn, could even work with a senior through in-home care on carrying out the specific activities of her or his lifestyle, using functional training methods to improve the proficiency and confidence of the individual.
To me, the optimal in-home care provider would not only assist a senior client in ADL’s, but would apply the principles of exercise physiology and physical therapy in attempting to help the client regain the ability to perform as many of these activities as possible. Another part of my Co-op with Dr. Connie Seymour and Dr. Gerard Dybel involved administering physical therapy to Multiple Sclerosis patients. Our main goal with these patients was to help them maintain the ability to conduct ADL’s and attempt to regain lost abilities. This was very challenging, but the patients did make progress, and I feel that, if an in-home care provider is to truly assist her or his client’s, she or he would do much good in setting the same kinds of goals. As I move closer to my time as a physical therapist and begin selecting areas of interest, I will be highly considering working with an in-home care population at some point in the future, as I feel there is much I can do for them, and that, as have been my experiences in the field so far, it will be rewarding to me as well.
Christopher is a sophomore student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.