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 Marguerite Mitchell
Caring for an elderly person usually has a negative perception attached to it. Often we hear that while it is respectable to do, it is also a daunting task. Many elderly people are placed into homes, and sometimes, this decision is made too soon. When you take away the independence of someone it will promote them to become more dependent. They may lose time that they could have spent living the life they have come to love. Home health care helps promote the independence of the elderly population while ensuring their safety. Physical Therapists can be a great asset to home health care due to their knowledge and experience with many of the tasks involved with home health care.
A physical therapist (PT) devotes their career to strengthening patients, and teaching them independence. They work with patients from the start to the finish, and experience many things with them. The family of a patient also gets to know a physical therapist once the therapist begins educating them and preparing for the patient to go home. The combination of patient advocate and educator found within a physical therapist makes them the perfect promotors for home health care.
Physical Therapists are trained to encourage their patients to be independent while making sure they have the knowledge and tools to never compromise their safety. Working with a patient in their home is natural for a PT, and they are constantly aware of the changes they need to make in order to make living in that home easier on their patients. A PT involved with home health care could work daily with the patient on transfers, strength, walking, bed mobility, and a variety of other activities that would broaden the abilities of the patient. Being that PT’s are educated on all these topics, but often work in teams means that they could adjust to the needs of their patient and handle their home care individually or bring in other healthcare professionals when needed. Contributions to home health care made by PT’s extend into educating purposes.
It is not enough to only have a professional in the home with all the necessary knowledge and skills. Eventually they will leave for the day, and the patient may be left with a family member. The family members need to be knowledgeable on the situation of the patient or the environment could become dangerous for the patient and family member. A PT could spend time teaching the family all they needed to know to help their family member to get by with little difficulty. PT’s spend large amounts of time with family members preparing patients to go home after a stroke, broken bone, extensive surgery, etc. If there is not a family member with the basic knowledge pertaining to the situation then a PT is not comfortable sending them home when they still need assistance. Education is just as important as skills and mobility when dealing with home healthcare, but still often overlooked.
Home health care is about more than just allowing someone to stay comfortable in their own home. It’s about promoting independence, ensuring safety, building respect between the patient and provider, and maintaining a suitable living environment and lifestyle for the patient. Likewise, all of these ideas are valued within the profession of physical therapy. A PT could extend their care to home healthcare and do so in a way that improved the lives of each senior citizen they worked with. The incorporation of patient education, family education, and safety concerns by the PT could build the foundation for an environment that only stimulated the ability of the senior citizen to remain at home while engaging in activities of daily living and maintaining their self-respect and value.
Marguerite is a first year student in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at The University of Michigan-Flint.