Today, more than seven million Americans require some type of home care assistance ranging from around-the-clock, in-home medical care to once- or twice- weekly, touch-base visits. For most families, caregiving can become stressful as demands from their professional and personal world collide with the desire to find sufficient time to devote to the caregiving tasks that also are a family priority. Even after a caregiving plan of action is identified, it is often complicated and multi-layered.
In the initial assessment of what basic requirements will be needed to care for an individual in an in-home situation, much time will be spent gathering information on the individual’s medical condition history, tests, home safety issue evaluation and doctor visits and health recommendations. The next stage requires a formulated caregiving plan to be put in place to assure that the individual’s health and safety are priority number-one.
It might be easy to define a whole life by these tests and outcomes and to feel relief after a plan is in place that guarantees that these basic human needs will be taken care of for a loved one. Whether a family member or an outside source will be providing the caregiving — reaching a consensus on a treatment plan can relieve much of the stress of the day-to-day routine of home care. However, there is more than safety and medical conditions that define the needs an individual at home may have.
In those initial stages of home-care assistance not much attention is given to seniors’ needs as a whole person — beyond the physical realm. But, by focusing on other areas of the person’s life, in collaboration with the physical needs, we can begin to treat the individual as a “whole” and can focus on a big-picture view of a more balanced care approach that enhances an all-encompassing quality of life for an individual receiving home care.
For many, the basic desire for conversation and companionship can be an often- overlooked piece to the home-care solution. For some, this may be the only home care assistance actually needed. Companions can provide one-on-one interaction, provide basic-level nutritional meal preparation, light housekeeping and in many cases become trusted friends and motivators for the individuals.
Carmel, Ind.-based Home Care Assistance’s Dean Phillips became one such catalyst.
Phillips was hired to provide basic companionship to Suzie, an 87-year-old woman who had become complacent and sedentary and had no outside socialization other than doctor’s appointments. By becoming a trusted friend and companion Phillips was able to help her take physical therapy steps that allowed her to get up and moving again. After a few weeks Suzie became more mobile and actually looked forward to her continuing improvement after each of Phillips’ visits.
Ultimately, Suzie was moving around her house and eventually ventured out with Phillips to a local Costco for shopping — something without the encouragement of a companion she never would have done on her own — but had always been fully capable of doing. They now often venture outside to take a look at a fresh snowfall, have lunch and may even tackle a trip to the zoo soon. Phillips says that Suzie shares with him that “every day is an adventure now.” The joy of regaining mobility and of feeling as if she had conquered something that only a few months ago seemed insurmountable was due mostly to the dedication and motivation of Phillips and his constant determination to help her feel “whole” and socially engaged again.
Famous poet and writer Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
While of utmost importance is keeping our loved ones safe and healthy, we can’t forget that the mind, body, and spirit are one. Our overall health and wellbeing can only be measured by a holistic approach that allows all of the “Suzies” in our families and lives to feel safe, healthy and to feel as if each day is an adventure.