Announcing the Winners of the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 Home Care Scholarship!

SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 Home Care Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of our inaugural scholarship program, the 2014 Home Care Innovation Scholarship. Of the more than 200 submissions we received from studentsacross the nation, only three were selected to receive a $1,500 scholarship to help them pay for their books and other tuition expenses.

The motivation behind the 2014 Home Care Innovation Scholarship program was to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship served to engage our nation’s future caregiving generations and encourage them to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. In order to apply, American students enrolled in an accredited two-year college or four-year university program were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio.

Click the links below to learn more about each scholarship recipient and read their winning essay.

1. How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Winner: Emily Johnston, graduate student at Tufts University School of Medicine and the New England School of Acupuncture

2. What is the top challenge facing in-home care in your city, and what is your proposed solution?
Winner: Susan Sitzenstock, doctoral student at Indiana State University

3. How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Winner: Imani Nichols, sophomore at the University of Virginia

Interested in applying for our 2015 Future of Assisted Living Scholarship? Please click here.


1. How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors? By Emily Johnston

One of the biggest problems I see facing not only the healthcare realm, but also our society as a whole, is our lack of communication. The healthcare industry could much better utilize technology to improve in-home care for American seniors by employing simple tools to improve communication between the patient, family, home-care aids, primary care physicians and a myriad of specialists. Tools such as online-schedulers, discussion platforms, update boards and more could help better connect the support team, making their jobs easier and the patient’s life better.

When my grandmother was living with us while she was recovering from a fractured femur, I remember her talking about the frustrations of having multiple visits a day from various healthcare professionals because of the exhausting repetitive questions from each practitioner. In addition, it seemed like she was constantly awoken from a nap or her lunch was interrupted because the home health aid, the physical therapist or the nurse hadn’t told us the exact time they would be coming by. After her visits, if she was then too tired to eat and needed to nap in the late afternoon, that would offset the time for her next meal or might perk up her insomnia come bed time or might even deter her from enjoying a movie with her family. All of these issues, although they might seem miniscule to the average onlooker, were detrimental to getting her back on her feet more quickly. Since sleep and a great diet are imperative to recovering from any illness, and fun activities that patients look forward to can make all the difference in their speedy recovery, then why did this not impact a more efficient schedule and better dialogue between the healthcare professionals?

After polling a few visiting nurses on the issue, most acknowledge the inefficiencies and inconveniences to the patient, but they also emphasize how stressful their jobs are. Their overwork leaves little room to keep the patient’s whole-body wellness in mind because their patient’s vitals are most important. Most patients these days however do a lot a vital monitoring themselves with in-home electric blood pressure cuffs, scales, oxygen monitors, etc. With all this technology at their fingertips, the missing link seems to be that this data is then not shared with the other healthcare professionals that would like to know the same information. With the prevalence of Wi-Fi and Internet connections via data networks, there is an opportunity to implement the use of online platforms to share healthcare information between the patient and their team as well as between the multitude of specialists.

Take for example a team, which consists of a nurse, a phlebotomist, a physical therapist, an acupuncturist, a home-health aid, three family members, a primary care physician and a cardiologist. All must work together to see that the patient receives the best care possible, but there are a lot of moving parts in this situation and each have a different skill set to best tend to the patient. After an initial team meeting, an online scheduler will help each team member find the best time to meet the patient and make their preliminary assessment. After that, the scheduler will continue to help keep everyone organized around different schedules, including the patient’s personal routine.

Next an online update board could keep important information such as a list of medications, current vitals, what the patient has ingested and eliminated from their body, and much more all in place to save time and energy for both the practitioner and the patient. The patient, their family and the home aid should also be included and could add notes to a discussion board to keep the practitioners up-to-date on current issues.

This is certainly an idealistic view of how the healthcare industry could use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors. In this situation, we would need to be able to standardize a system for multiple specialties and businesses as well as be able to teach each of these specialists how to use the system based on their varying levels of access. Like with any new program, there is also room for malfunctions, system crashes as well as human pride, laziness, and error. All that being said, improving communication between the support team of any patient with the help of the Internet can only lead to better quality of care and thus a better life for the patient.

About Emily Johnston

After pursing a dual Bachelor’s Degree in History and German Studies from Hamilton College, many of my acquaintances were confused with me then pursuing two Masters programs in healthcare. But my friends and family were less surprised because of my strong connection with helping others and persistent interest in pursing medicine.

My interest in Eastern Medicine began at an early age when I was battling allergies, sports injuries and debilitating menstrual cramping. I chose to pursue Acupuncture with a concentration on Pain Management as a career path because of how integrative, alternative medicine has impacted my life for the better. With a Master’s of Acupuncture from the New England School of Acupuncture and a Master’s of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy from Tufts Medical School, I plan to become an acupuncturist specializing in palliative care.

This scholarship from SeniorAdvior.com regarding home health care interests me because as our population continues to live longer, home health aids are becoming more vital in improving the quality of life for our aging population. As an acupuncturist and pain management specialist, I hope to be an integral part of each patient’s strong support network as they are able to age gracefully, to remain in their home, and to continue to receive the superior quality of care they deserve.


2. What is the top challenge facing in-home care in your city, and what is your proposed solution? By Susan Sitzenstock

The population in the United States is aging rapidly. According to the Census Bureau, the elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050 to 80 million people. Many elders are living active, healthy lives; yet others are less fortunate and are living longer with chronic diseases and high levels of disability. With the shift to a rapidly aging population requiring assistance, the number of family caregivers is also expected to rise. It is the families – not social service programs, nursing homes, or government agencies – who are the primary providers of long-term care. More than 65 million Americans are informal caregivers, providing unpaid help in the home environment to their disabled loved ones. 22% of caregivers are assisting 2 individuals, while 8% are caring for 3 or more individuals.

Research studies have shown that family caregiver involvement can improve patient outcomes for individuals with physical, mental, and cognitive disorders. Unfortunately, research has also shown that caregiving exacts a heavy emotional, physical, and financial toll on the caregiver. Emotionally, family caregivers have described enriching experiences and increased value of life while caring for the disabled individual. However, families have also stated they have experienced feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Physically, caregivers often experience exhaustion and burden overload. Half of all caregivers are over age 50, making them more vulnerable to a decline in their own health. One third of caregivers describe their health as being fair to poor. Financially, family caregiving has been a budget-saver to the federal government, individual states, and private insurance companies faced with the challenge of covering the health and long-term care expenses of persons who are elderly, ill, or have chronic disabilities. Considering a more focused view, in the state of Ohio, there are more than 1.3 million unpaid caregivers. Family caregivers in Ohio provide care that, if provided by paid caregivers, would cost $14.2 billion each year. Regrettably, family caregiving is often financially draining as caregivers are often faced with the burden of paying for expensive medical supplies “out-of-pocket” due to cutbacks in health insurance and federal aid.

The top challenge facing in-home care, not only in the state of Ohio but across the entire United States, is how are we as a nation going to meet the needs of the caregivers?

My proposed solution to the problem is two-fold. First, we as home healthcare providers must consider the caregiver. Often, the caregiver is delegated to the background, as we focus our attentions solely on the individual patient. We must acknowledge the need to recognize and work with family caregivers, and support them both physically and emotionally.

Second, state legislatures must be enlightened and informed on the importance of voting to pass a bill that institutes an increase in general fund dollars to support the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendment of 2000 established the NFCSP. The Act mandates all states and territories to fund a range of support systems that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible. The NFCSP has resulted in improved access to support services, outreach to special populations, and provision of services to respond to the unique needs of families. Research has shown that the use of caregiver support services results in considerably improved healthcare outcomes for both the disabled individual and the caregiver.

In the spring of 2015, I will be actively working to obtain support from state legislatures to increase funding for the NFCSP.

As America ages, the prevalence of disabled and elderly individuals residing at home and relying on family caregivers is growing. It is imperative to recognize the important role that family caregivers occupy in our nation’s healthcare system. Family caregiving may result in significant benefits, such as improved health of the disabled individual and the savings of substantial amounts of money for government healthcare systems. However, family caregivers are vulnerable to a decline in their own health. We as healthcare providers are in a position to provide aid and support by opening our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the unique needs of the family caregiver.

About Susan Sitzenstock

My name is Susan Sitzenstock and I have been privileged to work in the healthcare field for many years. I am a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor’s Degree, and in 1999 I returned to college earning my Master’s Degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. I am presently attending Indiana State University’s online program, and am working towards my Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree, with my scheduled date of graduation being May 1, 2015. I have studied hard in school, and have earned straight “A’s” in all my classes. I am seeking the Doctorate Degree because I wanted to further my education and training so that I may provide the best possible care of my patients.

I work two jobs – I am employed full-time at an outpatient clinic. I also have a part-time job that I have performed for over 17 years-I am a home healthcare nurse. I know I will always work in home healthcare in my medical career as it is such a rewarding and fulfilling position.

I am married to a wonderful man who supports me in both my career and scholarly endeavors. We live in Hinckley, a quiet rural area just southwest of Cleveland, Ohio.

Due to my continuing interest and employment in home healthcare, the Senior Advisor Scholarship caught my attention. Needless to say, attending graduate school is quite expensive and to be awarded a scholarship would be helpful. I would greatly appreciate your consideration of my application for your scholarship awards.


3. How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services? By Imani Nichols

“Changing Perceptions” by Imani Nichols

BEGIN SCRIPT

MS. SMITH and her in home caregiver, LAUREN are standing in Ms. Smith’s kitchen. Ms. Smith has just returned from taking her daily walk around her neighborhood. Ms. Smith is fanning herself as Lauren washes the dishes in the sink. Ms. Smith sits at the kitchen table.

LAUREN: How was your walk, Ms Smith?

MS. SMITH: It was great, Lauren. Thank you. I had to stop a little early because my arthritis was kicking in. [Ms. Smith stretches her right leg out and rubs her knee.]

LAUREN: I’m happy that you don’t let your arthritis stop you.

MS. SMITH: I don’t let it. It does slow me down a little, but I’m still going. Thanks for all of your help, Lauren.

LAUREN: No problem, Ms. Smith. [Lauren washes the last dish and sits across from Ms. Smith.]

MS. SMITH: When my arthritis hits, it’s sometimes hard to do basic housekeeping things like clean, cook, and do laundry. I can barely move. You’ve been a godsend, Lauren. I need the help, especially since my kids live on the other coast.

LAUREN: That’s what I’m here for! What’s best is that, I only come when you need me – so you can do your thing when your arthritis isn’t bothering you.

MS. SMITH: Yes, I do have some pain-free days! [Ms. Smith laughs.]

LAUREN: Well, you know I’m here until 3. I know you wanted me to drive you to the store, do you want to go now?

MS. SMITH: Not yet, I’d like to cook something today since my hands are feeling well. Can you move those boxes in the garage instead? I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go shopping.

LAUREN: Sure, take it easy.

END SCRIPT

I am declaring a Media Studies major because I’m interested in advertising. In terms of enacting change, I believe that advertising is more effective than legal action. Laws can be ignored, but advertising cannot. Advertising shapes people’s perceptions, and therefore, dictates how people view the world. With Media Studies, I can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services by changing their perception of in-home care. I’d start changing their perception with a simple commercial. The original script I created at the beginning of this essay is an example of this type of commercial.

Seniors often associate receiving in-home care with loss of independence and incapacity. By creating advertisements, such as my original commercial, the in-home care service is presented to seniors in a way that resists this common perception. In my commercial script, Ms. Smith maintains her independence and capability. Although she suffers from arthritis that sometimes makes her immobile, Ms. Smith takes regular walks around her neighborhood, and cooks. When her arthritis overcomes her, Ms. Smith relies on her in-home caregiver, Lauren for assistance. Lauren washes the dishes for Ms. Smith, drives her to the store, and moves boxes.

This is an example of how I’d use my Media Studies background to present the in-home care experience. Ms. Smith is able to maintain her independence, but when her arthritis affects her, she can rely on her in-home caregiver. In my example, there is a balance between the role of the in-home caregiver and the senior. The senior is treated like a human being and the caregiver is not patronizing the senior.

Changing in-home care perceptions directly improves the lives of seniors because it frees them from living under the impression that they can’t do anything on their own. Seniors may be apprehensive about in-home care because they’re worried about what their children, grandchildren, or other seniors will think of them. It’s as if receiving in-home care is a shame. Once free from this impression, seniors can enjoy their in-home care and achieve the balance that Ms. Smith and Lauren have.

Perception is powerful. To an extent, Media Studies is the study of creating, manipulating, and eroding perceptions. With Media Studies, I can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services by altering the perception of receiving in-home care. I can replace the loss of independence narrative with the narrative of Ms. Smith and Lauren.

About Imani Nichols

I’m Imani Nichols. I’m currently a sophomore at University of Virginia. I intend on declaring a Media Studies major. I’m interested in Media Studies as it is the closest major to advertising. I’d like to work on the business side of advertising post-grad. The In-Home Care Innovation Scholarship interested me because I like to connect my major to services, such as in-home senior care, that I wouldn’t usually think to apply it to. In my spare time, I like to read, write, watch Netflix, cook, and work out.


Congratulations to our scholarship winners!

Based in Austin, TX, Amelia is the Content Marketing Manager for SeniorAdvisor.com. When she’s not writing about online reputation management, online reviews, and social media in the senior living space, she enjoys yoga and running with her dog Rockefeller. She graduated from Wellesley College cum laude with a dual degree in English and Medieval/Renaissance Studies.

170 Comments

  1. Addison Baby July 3, 2015 Reply

    Excellent post and wonderful blog, I really like this type of interesting articles keep it up.

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