How Home Health Aides Can Improve Senior Independence

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Maintaining personal independence is a key goal for anyone’s journey in aging, and it can’t be done without also considering health concerns. For many, that means finding the right home health aides, Julie Hershberg, a professor of clinical physical therapy at the University of Southern California, said during a June 11 Parkinson’s Foundation webinar. 

A Pew Research Center survey on aging and quality of life showed that older adults are considerably less optimistic about the future than those who are younger. More than 70% of those under age 50 expect their lives to be better in 10 years, as do 46% of those age 50 to 64. By contrast, only about 20% of adults age 75 and older expect their lives to be better in the future than they are today.

Similarly, older adults are more inclined to see their current lives less positively than their past. Only 30% of adults age 75 and older consider their lives today to be better than they were 10 years ago.

It doesn’t have to be this way, Hershberg said. With home health aides, care can come directly to seniors in their environments and on their own terms. 

Bayada, an international home health aide provider, put it another way: In-home services allow adults to receive day-to-day help with the personal care they need, preserving their dignity and maintaining a good quality of life. Assistance with daily living activities can include bathing, grooming and medication reminders.” 

Daily Caring, a website devoted to senior caregiving, said seniors are best served when caregivers focus on the fact that help is empowering and allows them to do more.“[T]he purpose of assistance is to enable them to do what they want as safely and independently as possible,” the article said.

While home health aides should only be one part of a holistic senior health plan, they can do a lot to boost and extend quality of life. Many aides bring expertise in an area of specialty — for example, occupational therapists can help address a variety of limitations, goals and strategies.

Occupational therapists enable people to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent — or live better with — injury, illness or disability,” Hershberg said during the webinar.

Through motor skills learning, aerobic exercise, goal setting and self-management, older adults don’t just live longer, but also more fulfilling lives, she said. 

Beyond that, home health aides can tailor their programs to the individual, rather than working from a cookie-cutter method meant to appeal to a broad swath of people. Learning through feedback and challenging seniors beyond their current skill level can promote a more personalized approach to improving and maintaining quality of life.