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 the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Katherine Arnold, Tacoma Community College
I believe that technology can greatly improve seniors using in-home care with the use of assistive devices. Seniors use assistive devices for many different tasks, and purposes. An example of an assistive device is a high-powered lighted magnifying glass for reading when vision is limited or worsening. Another assistive device is stair lifts, which are especially beneficial for seniors who choose to stay in their own homes. However, some senior’s original homes have staircases. In many cases, senior’s mobility has diminished greatly, stairs become nearly impossible. Stair lifts simply carry the senior safely up and down the levels of the house.
Assistive devices are important for seniors who receive in-home care for two reasons. The first is that assistive devices enable seniors and the disabled to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. The more the senior can do alone often the better their emotional health and possibly even physical health will be. Furthermore improved assistive devices may also help maintain seniors privacy. With robotics, grabbers, or other assistive devices, seniors may be able to bathe, perform perineal care, and dress without the dependence of a caregiver during very personal self-care tasks.
In addition, assistive devices in a senior’s home can also alleviate the caregiver. Often family members and caregivers from an agency are overwhelmed with numerous daily tasks. Assistive devices may be able to take some of the responsibility allowing them to focus their attention on the other more important needs of the senior. Someone caregiving for a family member will then likely have more time to be with their loved one, read to them, talk to them, or just spend time with them.
Along with family member caregivers’ and agency caregivers’ improved time management, seniors themselves would have more time to do something that they enjoyed without so much time spent with a caregiver or performing tasks slowly on their own. The senior could then socialize more with friends and family or take time for a hobby.
A very important benefit of assistive devices for seniors in-home is security. Devices such as Life Alert can provide peace of mind for seniors, family members and caregivers alike. A caregiver may need to run an errand for the senior, but worry when they are away that the senior may fall or have a health concern. With Life Alert the senior is able to press a very accessible button, usually located around their neck, which will notify emergency services. This is also important because unlike seniors in retirement or assisted living homes, someone is not always around or checking in on them throughout the day.
Another tremendous benefit of technology in assistive devices being used in in-home care would be devices such as hearing aids, or command buttons to better direct and communicate with a caregiver. This improvement would not only help for the caregiver to better serve the senior, but it would also make communication easier thus elevating the frustration that both parties often feel.
In order for these benefits to be achieved, the healthcare industry and insurance companies ought to provide assistive devices to patients as they would products such as walkers or wheelchairs. Though the healthcare industry does already use some technology with creating and providing assistive devices, I find that there is still very much to be done. Less cumbersome, stronger, more efficient, and easier to use devices are yet to be invented. In conclusion, it is obvious that the healthcare industry should use and improve technology in assistive devices in order to greatly improve the lives of seniors who are utilizing in-home care, and caregivers providing service to seniors in in-home care.
Katherine is a full-time student at Tacoma Community College.