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 your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Maggie Chen
“Will you marry me?” is a question I never thought I would encounter, much less seven times, until I was at least a few years older. When I began my rotation in the Neurological Progressive Care Unit at Palomar Hospital, the staff had informed us that the dementia patients could have more unique requests, though responding to marriage proposals had not been in our training.
That first day was disastrous. Still adjusting to the new layout, I scrambled to assist the nurses as they cared for a completely full floor. My first task was to clean up a bowel movement. I had always been interested in healthcare, and I wanted a hands-on experience in what it meant to personally care for a patient – to use medicine to heal. But, confronted with the reality and intimacy of cleaning up the patient, I hesitated.
However, I realized that, no matter how jarring this experience seemed to me, it could not possibly compare to what the patient was experiencing. Disease can be unfair. Sometimes it is caused by genetics, or even bad luck, and the resulting experience of illness varies with each individual. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I was cranky and mean from pain. My mother took care of me even though I was unpleasant. I wasn’t the most grateful patient, but I did appreciate her kindness and attentiveness.
I try my best to emulate my mother’s compassion when caring for my patients, telling jokes and asking about their families as I wash their faces or helped them into their robes. I look forward to the new challenges every shift brings. Every single day and every single patient is different.
Unlike other departments I had previously been assigned to, the patients on the Neurology floor were not struggling the way patients were in the Cardiovascular or Orthopedic Departments. Neurology patients have chronic conditions where a single operation is not enough to resolve the issue. Often, means of long-term care is contained in a tiny pill.
“Drugs” have always been marketed to me in a way that made it seem they only cause self-destruction and ruin. My school is always campaigning the latest “Hugs not Drugs” campaign, and everything drug related becomes taboo. But, in the hospital, the powerful effects that drugs can exert on the human body are crucial to medicine.
I’m fascinated by the science of pharmacy and the bridge it creates between research and patient care. Beyond taking the advanced science courses offered at my school, I’m always looking for other ways to expand my understanding. Through Science Olympiad, I studied anatomy and physiology. Through biology, I learned about the immune system. I’m looking forward to using my time in college to further explore the manifestations of disease, why certain people get certain diseases, and how these diseases can be cured.
On the Neurology floor, one of the most heartbreaking situations is when a patient’s family comes to visit, but the patient does not recognize them. I once tended to a patient, Ben, who had dementia. His family came to visit him for his birthday, and brought cake, presents, and balloons. But, not realizing they were his family, Ben turned hostile and uncooperative. His granddaughter, who was in first grade, did not quite understand why her grandfather suddenly hated her so much and burst into tears.
I hope that by studying pharmacy and one day contributing to the knowledge that helps us treat patients like Ben, I can more meaningfully improve the lives of these patients I have worked with. That may mean fewer marriage proposals, but it will lead to the “rediscovery” of spouses and families. I may not help put a new heart in an old man or an adventurous twelve year old saw off his cast, but I do want to help people regain their lives and memories, and help them build a new future.
Currently, there is no definite cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, there are drugs that can aid against memory loss and cognitive changes. As a potential pharmacist, I want to work on developing these drugs and improving their benefits, so that patients with Alzheimer’s can spend as much time as possible with their families, at home. The psychological and emotional effects of Alzheimer’s can be difficult for patients to go through, and being taken care of at home can help patients feel more comfortable and supported by their loved ones.
Maggie plans to study pre-pharmacy.