How Home Healthcare Services Enhance Elderly Patients' Autonomy and Independence
As the population of older adults continues to grow, so does the importance of addressing their healthcare needs and ensuring their independence and autonomy. In the United States alone, a significant portion of adults aged 60 or above either live alone or share a home with their spouse or children. According to statistics, 27% of these older adults reside alone, while 46% enjoy the company of their loved ones under the same roof.
The prospect of moving into a healthcare center can be overwhelming and may even threaten the autonomy of elderly adults, as the onset of advanced age brings about various health conditions that may necessitate such a move.
Fortunately, there is an alternative solution that can empower these individuals and enable them to maintain their independence while receiving necessary medical and other kinds of care.
Home healthcare services have emerged as a convenient option that provides a comprehensive range of medical and other kinds of assistance within the comfort and familiarity of the patient's home.
This article will explore how home healthcare services enhance the independence and autonomy of elderly patients with long-term health conditions.
How Home Healthcare Services Promote Independence for Elderly Patients
Maintaining independence and autonomy becomes increasingly essential as individuals advance in age, particularly when confronted with various health conditions. These health challenges often hinder seniors from maintaining the same level of independence and autonomy and prevent them from performing many activities of daily living without assistance. Consequently, family members often feel compelled to seek alternative living arrangements like communities or nursing homes, where their loved ones can receive round-the-clock medical attention, companionship, and other needed care.
Unfortunately, such transitions can inadvertently rob these elderly individuals of a sense of control over their daily routines and personal lives, leading to a diminished sense of joy and fulfillment in their lives.
Home healthcare providers provide and preserve this sense of autonomy and independence that elderly people usually want in their advanced age. Because they provide the needed care in an environment that is familiar to the individual, this often helps to remove or limit the resistance that the individual might otherwise put up when being taken care of by someone else.
This approach not only promotes a greater sense of independence but also supports a higher quality of life, which enables elderly individuals to maintain their routines, make personal decisions, and enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle.
The healthcare professionals that a home health agency employs to provide these specialized and important services for seniors can range from licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, home health aides, occupational therapists, and more. They usually undergo extensive training and certification by a relevant State Department of Health or other relevant body.
A few ways in which they promote independence for elderly patients include:
- Give Personalized Care and Assistance
The relevant home healthcare professional usually consults with the patient and their family members to devise a medical assistance and care program tailored to their needs and preferences. They evaluate the current medical condition, mobility level, cognitive abilities, and daily living requirements of the individual to determine their unique needs.
Once this evaluation is complete, they actively communicate with the patient and their family to get their perspective and share the amount and level of care they believe the patient needs daily, then devise the care approach accordingly.
- Provide Emotional and Social Support
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of adults aged 60 and above suffer from mental health issues, such as dementia and depression. This happens due to common life stressors and the decline in functional ability. As most elderly people already experience the loss of good or optimal health and functionality, it is crucial to help them maintain their sense of autonomy and independence to try and make up for any loss.
Home health professionals are trained to manage this situation and provide emotional and social support that can reduce mental strain on elderly patients. They create a safe space for open communication and listen to the individual’s concerns. They also offer reassurance and companionship, showing that they understand the struggles the individual is going through.
Due to their training in positive communication skills, home healthcare professionals can deliver their services without overpowering the patient, which helps them feel they are still in charge of their life while knowing they have a strong support system to rely on.
- Encourage Decision Making
To maintain a sense of control and independence, home healthcare providers prioritize informing patients about their medical health, treatment options, and care plans. By sharing relevant information, patients can actively participate in managing their health and well-being.
Through these practices, home healthcare providers empower older adults by ensuring they retain autonomy and actively shape their healthcare journey for better outcomes.
- Teach Self Reliance
Home healthcare aides also play a crucial role in assisting older adults with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting. However, the aide first assesses the patient's abilities and identifies areas where they can still independently perform as many of these tasks as possible and areas where assistance is needed. With this information, a personalized plan can be created to teach self-reliant skills. In doing so, they help to minimize feelings of distress and dependency that may arise in seniors.
For instance, professional aides may break down complex tasks into manageable steps, fostering learning that builds the client's confidence. They also promote and teach safety measures to ensure your loved one can handle tasks of daily living and medication management without compromising their health.
These experts also recommend assistive devices like wheelchairs, canes, safety alarms, gait belts, reachers, and grabbers to enhance independence and mitigate injury risks. The healthcare aides also provide constant feedback, enabling necessary corrections and continual improvement in the patient's ability to carry out daily tasks independently.
Elderly patients with long-term health conditions can become incapable of completing their daily tasks, leading to a sense of loss of autonomy. This can extremely affect their self-esteem and bring about various mental health challenges like depression. To empower elderly patients and provide them independence, family members can get help from home healthcare providers.
These home healthcare service providers are professionally trained to medically assist elderly patients while maintaining their independence in the comfort of their homes. They use personalized care plans that are created after consultation with patients and other healthcare professionals, to ensure the clients are still in control of their lives, as much as possible. They also offer emotional support to prevent psychological stress associated with receiving assistance with daily tasks. Additionally, they encourage decision-making and teach self-reliant skills to increase patients' autonomy.
Anna Dykshteyn is the president and administrator of City Choice Home Care Services. She has over 15 years of hands-on experience in the home healthcare industry, has a degree in Health Information Management, and is also licensed to operate by the New York State Department of Health.
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