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 Dorothee Louis, Illinois Institute of Technology

In architecture the most important ultimate goal is that design should fit the purpose. In this process principles of architecture and engineering, planning, safety and creativity come together in order to obtain the most effective structure that can be even more useful than solely serving a given purpose. For example in designing a library the purpose is to design an archive and retrieval system of books, journals, etc., nevertheless in many cases other elements such as educational resources and computer access areas are also added to the plan. This integration of additional designs and aspects into a building takes additional insights and knowledge of the specific needs of the individuals living in building or the purpose that a building is designed to serve. I had the experience of living and taking care of my grandfather who was suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s, therefore I have seen the devastating situation that these patients live in and the importance of the right type and amount of care which is needed by them. Moreover many other disabling conditions such as stroke, spinal cord lesions, vision problems and any type of condition which may limit one’s movement and communication can alter the interaction between the patient and his or her environment. One approach to solve this problem is to educate patients about how their disability affects this interaction and teach them some strategies to cope with this situation. For example many individuals who have impaired vision learn how to estimate distances or navigate themselves in a familiar building. A second solution is designing equipment and prosthetics to enable patients to interact with the environment and move around the environment with reliable accuracy. For instance in recent years advancement in our understanding of brain signals and biomechanics which allows us to design efficient prosthetic and robotic limbs, has led to a system that translate brain signals into commands for robotic arms and this is a promising innovation for paralyzed individuals. A third option that applies directly to my field of study, architecture, is to consider making changes in designs and layouts of buildings and spaces in order to facilitate the daily activities of individuals with disabilities. For example a simple change in the order which black and white floor tiles are put together in hallways or rooms can help dementia patient to guide their way to outsides, this is especially crucial in cases of evacuation due to an emergency. One routinely practiced design is making buildings or spaces accessible for people in wheelchair, this can be taken one step further by making accessibility applied to a larger group of disabilities; for example signs/maps with Braille writings can be posted in order to guide the visually disabled to the correct destinations. Moreover elevations between different parts of buildings can be adjusted to minimize patients’ efforts while moving around a building. As a future architect I aim to use my knowledge and skills in order to consider the needs of disabled individual in design and layouts of buildings. I feel that even subtle changes in the plan can have huge positive outcomes for quality of life of patients. By allowing spaces between patient’s living space and the care giver we can facilitate the care taking process and allow the patient to express his or her needs more efficiently. Finally the experience I have from volunteering at rehabilitation and mental health clinics, will be a great additional advantage in helping me to design and execute the plans which can provide a higher level of care taking process.

About Elham

Elham is currently a student at Illinois Institute of Technology enrolled in the bachelor of architecture degree.

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