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 Nadia Abboud
The goal of in-home care is to help aging seniors fulfill their desire to remain living at home despite declining physical and mental capabilities. Living in familiar surroundings is a great source of comfort and stability for the aging population. The technologies that may improve in-home care could involve aiding the individual mobility of seniors, a way of calling for assistance when a caretaker is not present, or could refer to skilled medical assistance. Devices like scooters or canes can often help maintain or restore a senior’s mobility and independence. In the case of emergency assistance, there are medical alert devices that can be purchased and worn as a necklace or bracelet in ensure the senior’s access to it (“Medical Alert System”, Web). A wide range of medical technologies have been used to assist seniors from pacemakers to maintain regular heart beat to palliative/comfort care involving use of pain relievers and other medicines. Yet there are also strengthening exercise technologies and methods that can help seniors overcome physical weakness that comes with age. For instance, the use of computers/internet could provide inspiration perhaps through email subscription or relay helpful programs like online exercise classes.
Now more than ever before, we find that medical technology is quickly developing and increasing in capability. If one stops to think about the ability of life-sustaining treatment and pain-killers to keep people alive and comfortable for longer than was possible in previous generations, it’s pretty amazing. Yet as a result, there are those who ask- “To what extent do we provide these treatments and medicines to seniors/patients when there are limited supplies?” That is a question for another time but I will say that the actions senior patients and their doctors take can aid in reducing the amount of resources that are used ineffectively.
I think the broad question is not only how healthcare technology can help improve in-home medical care but also how much the seniors receiving the care are willing to participate in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a stimulating psychological mindset. These two categories play a role in how helpful the technologies and medicines are for the recipients.
If possible, I think it would be helpful for seniors to start thinking of, sharing ideas about, and possibly writing up advanced directives about their own future medical care especially when they know their particular condition and its potential effects. This process is better started sooner than later in order to insure that the care reflects the recipient’s interests and autonomy. For instance, this directive may be regarding one’s care and choice of life-sustaining treatments in the event that their decision-making ability is lost. In addition to the administration of life-sustaining treatments (or withholding of at certain stages) directives can also be made regarding the degree of pain medications used to provide relief when it will affect the recipient’s ability to interact with the outside world as well as whether an aggressive or palliative care should be provided and at what stages of illness and so on. An important decision for seniors to make is to choose a proxy, whom they believe has their best interests in mind, to make the necessary end of life decisions for them when the time comes. Generally speaking, a good proxy is a caring family member who has an understanding of the circumstances in a way that allows them to make informed decisions regarding the senior’s care.
I would like to point out that these are my speculations of what is best based on my understanding of the healthcare industry and that there are others who would take this subject matter in a different. I also recognize that this can be a sensitive topic for many, especially those experiencing a greater necessity for it as they age and as a result it alters their way of life. I think in-home care comforts and smooths the possible transition between independent living and assisted living in senior care facilities. Overall, in order for the use of technologies to improve the effectiveness of in-home care, a senior must work together with the caretakers and see the care as a positive solution rather than a problem.
Nadia is currently a sophomore at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN.