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 Jessica Render, Georgia Southern University
The role that sociology play in improving in-home care services became evident while completing a program evaluation course assignment in the spring of 2014. My first semester of graduate school, I enrolled in a program evaluation course with no real interest in aging and senior care, but to my surprise, my professor was the Director of the Gerontology center. What began as an unwanted course assignment on aging ended as a fulfilling service learning opportunity. I thought of my course assignments as a violation of my constitutional rights. Still, my professor held me responsible for leading a group of 4 undergraduate students in a needs assessment of The Stetson Summit Apartments*, a subsidized housing facility. Feeling resentful, I began planning an evaluation of a program for which I had no concern. I was unprepared for the revelation that came during the evaluation. In the middle of conducting face-to-face interviews with low-income residents of the Summit Apartments, my interest and my determination to evaluate for change grew as I listened to the stories of residents about loneliness and unmet service needs. Although many of the residents mentioned to me that most unmet needs were longstanding, the service coordinator of the Stetson Summit Apartments remained unaware. I realized how my work as an evaluator would improve in-home care services for seniors. It was my responsibility to illuminate discrepancies in intended implementation of in-home care services and established goals of Summit Apartment directors.
During the interview process, I was consistently asked by interviewees about communicating their service requests to the service coordinator. Questions such as when will I be able to get help with my laundry and how long will it take to get a home health aid led me to realize the usefulness of what I was doing, or program evaluation. In the instance of the Summit evaluation, I served as a liaison and advocate for communicating both met and unmet resident needs. My purpose as an evaluator was to make recommendations for improvement and judge the value of current program activities. Through analysis of participant interviews, survey data, observation, and business documents, I found out what in-home services are currently provided, what program activities are effective, what program activities are not effective, and what projects and future products will be most successful for the residents. I intend to help many other programs just as I helped reveal and communicate the needs of Stetson Summit residents. By improving communication between agency members and residents, I will improve the provision of targeted and personalized in-home care.
People have identities and a place in society that is the result of past experiences, social expectations, and current role attachments. This statement sums up what many of my courses in the Master of Social Science (emphasis in Sociology) program emphasize and what can be a key factor in understanding the provision of social services such as in-home care. A study of the self-reported unmet needs of home-based palliative care patients by Ventura, et al. (2014) found that patients’ physical needs are met, but psychosocial needs remain neglected and this is most commonly the result of a lack of communication between professional health care providers and home health care workers. The authors suggest that in-home care can be improved through better collaboration between multiple providers, or interagency collaboration. Interagency collaboration is most commonly measured using sociological methods such as social network analysis; the analysis of the interaction between two or more entities. Analysis of the relational patterns between the family, in-home clients, medical professionals, and healthcare providers of collaborating institutions can reveal contributing factors to poor home health delivery such as the presence of weak communication between home health care providers and medical professionals. As a Master of Social Science (emphasis in Sociology) candidate with an interest in program evaluation, I am acquiring the skills needed to effectively answer questions about what is not working, what is working, and why.
*Pseudonym has been used to protect client anonymity
Jessica is currently a student at Georgia Southern University Graduate Research Assistant to the Dean of the College of Education and Master of Social Science, with an emphasis in Sociology.