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 Stacey Dahm
The U.S. population is comprised of 35 million adults aged 65 or older. By 2030, the number of older adults will double to 70 million, making this the fastest growing segment of the population (Prevention, 2011). This increasing population will have a substantial impact on health services. Currently, about one third of all surgical procedures and half of all emergency procedures are performed on older adults. Older adults currently represent 14% of the population, but they use close to half of the hospital expenditures and 44% of total hospital day care (Beers M.H., 2000). This can be partly explained because 40% of older adults have a chronic condition, which can lead to associated long term illness, diminished quality of life, and increased health care services (Prevention, 2011). Since the number of older adults is increasing, the number of health services utilized by this population can be expected to increase, which will require sufficient health care providers.
The Health Resources and Services Administration has identified the high likelihood of a future shortage of healthcare workers, stressing the need for prevention and alternative health services (Administration, 2014). One health service important for the older adult population is occupational therapy. The role of occupational therapy is to support participation in life through engagement in occupation. Occupational therapists are trained in intervention approaches such as creation, restoration, maintenance, modification, and prevention in order to increase occupational performance at the individual, group, community, and policy levels. To address the future lack of health services and to benefit individuals who currently do not receive occupational therapy services, it is important to explore preventative approaches to healthcare that can be applied to a large population.
I specifically research fall prevention in older adults and the role of self- assessment in this population. Would it be beneficial to provide the older adult population with self-assessment fall prevention packets? Would this information actually help prevent falls in this population? Will it make a bigger impact than no intervention at all? These are the questions that need to be asked across all areas of in-home care. We need to ask if providing education on any in-home service will help individuals who do not have access to occupational therapy or other health home services. Home health occupational therapists have a large role in preventative care. In addition to fall prevention, occupational therapists address medication management, exercise, and overall environmental adaptation to increase participation. Education or self-assessments to clients and caregivers in all of these areas can 1) increase awareness and knowledge of deficits in these areas and 2) be implemented on a large scale at minimal cost. I believe it is important to continue research in the area of preventative self-care not only in occupational therapy, but in all health services that will have a future lack of health services. Overall, providing self-assessments to older adults can help provide care to a wider population and decrease economic burden and physiological decline in our society.
Stacey is currently a M.S. Occupational Therapy Student at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.