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 Hannah Thompson, Miami University
Gerontology is becoming a more important field of study as the population of older individuals continues to grow. Looking toward the future, helping the lives of seniors will be a critical issue among health care providers, policymakers, and caregivers. There are many issues surrounding the lives of our older population that will be of significance concerning the usage of in-home care. In my studies and past experience with an Area Agency on Aging, the shift from institutionalized nursing home care to in-home care services is now a significant preference in long-term care. The topic of “aging in place” is being advocated for amongst those in the aging network as a meaning way of receiving care on later life. Many feel that if the individual wants to stay within the home, there should be modifications made to ensure that the home is suitable for the aging individual. These changes can include bringing in outside services to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) to making structural modifications to the home itself. Either way, adapting the living environment to the aging individual should first be considered before drastic living decisions are reached.
Gerontologists contribute the understanding of the aging individual to health care providers through research in order to bring attention to the population’s most relevant issues. Our job is to hone in on all aspects of the aging individual including biological, psychological, and sociological characteristics that make up that person and an the aging population as a whole. In this way, changes and improvements can be made among this population and their overall satisfaction in life. Gerontologists have extensive theories that are tested in research that pertain to issues such as the in-home care and the components to remaining within the home successfully. A current research project that I am assisting with deals with the roles of caregivers and that special attention should be paid to them, since they are essential to keeping their loved one “aging in place”. Research such as this helps to expand the knowledge on how to provide improve in-home care outcomes among the aging population. If it is the wish of an individual to remain within their home, it is our job to ensure that this can be provided safely.
As Gerontologists, we are also considered to be advocates for the aging population in this nation. We are the ones that can directly intervene in in-home care approaches used in these services. For example, Gerontologists may be called upon to bring in ideas to direct care workers for better in-home care services. Advice and suggestions can be conveyed for a better understanding of the in-home care consumer in relation the aging process, not only pertaining to biological topics, but psychological issues that may not have been considered before. Through the study of aging issues, these topics can be better addressed among these individuals. The future of long-term care will see an increase in the population of those that need these services. Many more individuals will consider in-home care, either as a long-term care option or as a means of receiving assistance with activities of daily living. The future of Gerontology will consist of dealing with specific care situations and it is important to have knowledge to better serve our aging population.
After having a semester of graduate level Gerontological studies, I feel that now is a significant time in aging research, policy, and health care. The world is bracing for the increase of the aging population in the near future. Serving the needs of aging individuals will be at the forefront of the minds of caregivers and policymakers. The importance of in-home care services will be increased as a way of providing long-term care. By studying Gerontology, I will have a better understanding of the aging individual and their environment in which they age. Gerontology is a unique field in that professionals must consider a person’s life span as a whole in combination with their environment to determine individual aging processes. As “aging in place” becomes a more valuable option, Gerontologists must be aging experts in order to help determine how living within the home can be maintained for various aging individuals. It is my hope that I can be utilized in this manner as a way of helping this population.
Hannah is currently enrolled in the Master of Gerontological Studies program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.