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.
What is the top challenge facing in-home care in your city, and what is your proposed solution?
Essay response by Heather Konstanzer, Duquesne University
With the ever-changing technology and means of communication, senior citizens often are left behind in terms of knowing what resources are available to them. Thankfully, in my area, many services and programs have been developed to accommodate the aging population. However, these services are of no benefit to individuals who are not aware of their existence.
The majority of my clients, both in my home-care and clinical experience, do not know how to access email and many do not even own a computer. When they receive phone calls, I’ve found that they have difficulty hearing or remembering what has been said to them. Flyers that come in the mail do not always get read and sometimes serve as coasters or clutter in client homes. I do not wish to imply that this is the case for all seniors, however, it’s amazing to me how repeatedly I have witnessed such events.
Through personal and family connections, I’m aware of many services that offer assistance to the elderly in my community. There are services available that offer everything from transportation to companionship. It is great that new programs are being offered to supplement the care of the elderly, however they are only effective if the prospective clientele are aware of them. I can recall several examples of interactions in which my clients tell me of something they wish to do or a place to which they wish to go and are amazed when I inform them that organizations exist to fulfill these specific needs.
The lack of knowledge in regards to assistive services for seniors among the elderly and their family members leads to chronic underutilization of these tools. Through caregiver education and awareness, presence of these services can be communicated to clients in whatever way best suits their particular needs. If caregivers are aware of their clients’ needs and what resources would be helpful for them, more seniors could benefit from the many excellent services available.
Equally instrumental in communicating the availability of assistive services is client education. Modern medicine calls for increasing reliance on technology as a means of not only communicating, but also delivering necessary care. Because, for the most part, this population has been out of school for many years, they have not been forced to learn how to use modern technology. By creatively expanding classes specifically targeted at instructing the senior citizens on how to participate in their own care, the elderly can become empowered. Such courses can be implemented at senior centers, assisted living facilities and retirement communities; or through one-on-one, volunteer programs, such as those available through Grandparents Gone Wired. These classes teach elderly skills such as performing basic internet searches, creating and accessing email accounts, participating in video chats, and using cell phones and tablets. Although young adults consider these increasingly essential communication skills to be routine, they must be actively learned by senior citizens.
Contrary to the common misconception that aging means mounting dormancy, the elderly wish to be as active and involved as possible. Enabling them to lead active and fruitful lives as valued members of their community pays tribute to their wealth of wisdom and dignifies their lives. Both personal and caregiver education and awareness are instrumental in keeping our golden population engaged, involved and healthy.
Heather is currently a sophomore in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Duquesne University.