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 Emily Jiang, University of Pennsylvania

A quarter of American adults are currently caring for an aging parent or relative. Although family caregiving can be a very rewarding experience, it is clear why millions of adults have turned to in-home care for American seniors: caring for a senior citizen can be stressful and sometimes, a little help is needed to make sure everyone is taken care of. Oftentimes adults are reluctant to send their parents to a retirement center or a nursing home due to the costs involved and the distance put between the immediate families. With in-home care, American seniors can remain independent and live in their own homes while receiving the help they need from an assistant. It has become a viable option for millions of people and can only become more feasible with advances in technology.

A major concern for families considering in-home care is the safety involved with inviting someone who is virtually a stranger into the senior’s home. The media also exacerbates these concerns with their gross exaggeration of the rare horror stories involved with in-home care. Just as it is becoming commonplace to see a police officer with a camera, the healthcare industry should consider requiring the same of its caregiving professionals. To ease the minds of the adults placing the care of their relatives in the hands of another person, the aides coming into each home should be equipped with a camera to ensure they are accountable for everything they do. Every action, whether it’s helpful or harmful, will be recorded and if anything happens, can be evaluated. These recordings can be used to track the progress of each aide and will create a sense of accountability; the stakes are higher so their performance must be better as well. Even though questions can be raised about protecting the privacy of clients, all would agree that the safety and well being of each senior is far too important not to secure.

Aides coming in and out of homes usually know all the tasks they need to complete for a particular client. However because each assistant is a human being, all are subject to the occasional mistake simply due to human error. The vast majority of these are minute errors, but enough of them or even if a big one occurs, could potentially be life threatening. The healthcare industry should arrange for each aide to be armed with a tablet, which contains detailed instructions for all of the tasks that need to be completed in order for the senior to be adequately cared for. Each time a portion is completed, the aide must check it off the list before moving onto the next step. Critics may say that this is time consuming, or that the senior could just bring it up if an error was made.  Oftentimes they may not realize the mistake was made or they may not be able to communicate that there was an error. Equipping the aides with a tablet containing all instructions is a necessary step that needs to be taken in order to minimize even further errors in the industry.

As America’s population grows older, the percentage of Americans who are senior citizens will rise. The Baby Boomers are aging and fewer are being born into subsequent generations, thus creating a huge demand for in-home care in the years to come. Because of this, it is more important than ever to ensure the effectiveness and safety of this area in the healthcare industry. Technology has the ability to bridge all gaps, to ensure America’s greatest generation is being taken care of.

About Emily

Emily is pursuing an economics degree with concentrations in finance and health care management at the University of Pennsylvania.

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